In the wake of two large forest fires in Pailin and Siem Reap provinces, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned all Cambodians to be vigilant in preventing fires as the dry season continues.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said climate change was affecting the weather and that the public and government officials needed to take measures to prevent any more large fires as the land continues to dry out.
A Pailin province wildfire has destroyed nearly 1,000 hectares in Pailin province and another came within 3 km of Angkor Wat temple over the weekend. Several other smaller fires are reported to be burning around Cambodia, but the National Committee for Disaster Management said yesterday it was still collecting information about their locations and sizes.
“This year, it is very hot,” Mr Hun Sen said. “Now, people everywhere have to be careful. This is called climate change. With this situation we have to be careful…. Don’t let the fires take place.”
“As it is said, it is better have the father die rather than the mother and have the boat sink better than the house get burnt. But it is better not to let either take place—a sinking boat and burning house,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen said people should be careful when praying using incense, binding electrical cables, and when entering the forest if a fire is near. Persons lighting incense who inadvertently set fire to their houses should not blame Buddha, he added. “The reason is not because of Buddha but because of our carelessness…. So please pay more attention.”
Kim Sokha, environment director for Pailin province, said yesterday the threat that the province’s wildfire would reignite had “calmed.”
“We don’t see much smoke coming out now but it is very hot and dry here,” he said. “We don’t know what will happen in the next few days. We have to monitor the situation.”
Government officials said they have implemented programs to inform Cambodians about the threat of forest fires.
Chea Sam Ang, deputy director of the Forestry Administration, said that the government had put an education program in place to warn people of forest fires.
“We disseminate [information] to local people every year to be careful with the forest fire,” Mr Sam Ang said, adding that the information included warnings about not throwing cigarette butts on the ground and about extinguishing fires immediately after they have been used for cooking.
You Kanvimean, provincial forestry director in Ratanakkiri province, said that most fires could be blamed on human negligence.
Om Mactheary, chief of the Forestry Administration cantonment in Kampot province, said he had sent the government’s fire safety information to local officials so they could help educate the public.
Keo Vy, deputy director of information and relations at the National Committee for Disaster Management, said figures on how much land has burned in the past few weeks were not yet available.
“We are collecting the data from the local authorities,” Mr Vy said.