With the dry season in full swing and wildfires raging in southern Australia, government officials said they are continuing their efforts to instruct villagers on how to prevent forest fires.
Ty Sokhun, director of the Forestry Administration, said that every year the government alerts people working and living in the forests to the dangers of wildfires.
“Not only in the dry season but also in the rainy season, the government always educates people to be careful with the fire that they set up for cooking when they go into the forest,” he said.
He said the government has banned people from lighting fires in forests.
“People who intentionally set up fires in the forest will be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison,” he said.
Seng Teak, country director for the environmental group WWF, said forest fires are a common occurrence in Cambodia, especially during the dry season. He said people living and working within the forests ignite most fires and do not always understand the need to properly monitor the flames.
“Some people are just careless about the fire,” he explained. “It very rarely happens from natural causes.”
Seng Teak said forest fires, if managed correctly through controlled burns, can be beneficial to the forest’s ecosystem by clearing out old, dead growth and allowing sunlight and nutrients to reach young plants and saplings. The controlled burns also have an added benefit of decreasing the likelihood of a more intense wildfire by eradicating accumulated materials that could serve as kindling.
Director for the environment department in Preah Vihear province Khoy Khun Chanrath said his department educates people every year to be careful with fires that they light within the vulnerable forests.
“We tell residents and government officials to be careful with the fire they set up for cooking, collecting honey and from cigarette butts,” he said.