Wildlife Alliance Cambodia (WAC) announced on Facebook on Thursday that it is offering a $500 reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of arsonists who recently started forest fires within a protected area along road 48, Trapang Roung commune, Koh Kong district, in Koh Kong province.

An official from the NGO said the reward would be paid to anyone who handed over forest fire arsonists through a citizen’s arrest or the provision of information.

“Any person who has witnessed or witnesses forest fire arson should report to WAC so that we can arrest the offenders and send them to court. In the case of Koh Kong, we will award $500 if the information leads to the arrest of the perpetrators,” he said.

The official said that forest fires were very harmful to all species of wildlife animals and that they must be stopped with the community’s help.

“I encourage local communities and the public to help report arson to our expert team so we can respond accordingly.

“Informants can give anonymous tip-offs on the following phone numbers: 077 972 157 or 093 432 009 and 097 497 4090,” he said.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Preaktra said on Thursday that he supported the move and that offering cash rewards to catch offenders is a normal practice.

He said burning the forest to grab land and hunt animals was a serious crime that destroyed our natural resources.

“The ministry reminds people that in accordance with Article 62 of the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management, any persons that commits such a crime will face a Grade 4 punishment.

“Offenders who commit crimes like logging, clearing, burning and bulldozing forests for private means or cause forest fires intentionally can be sent to prison for between five and 10 years. Offenders will also be liable to a fine of up to 150 million riel ($36,902).

“If perpetrators reoffend, they will be fined up to 250 million riel ($61,504) and their property seized,” he said.