As flooding continued in Cambodia on Thursday, a group of high-ranking officials said they blamed regional climate change and urged Cambodia to find a response.
Authorities say at least 176 people have now died in flooding that began in August and has continued across the country. Nearly 21,000 people have evacuated their homes.
The flooding and other climate change issues were discussed at the Second National Forum on Climate Change in Phnom Penh on Thursday.
“This flood is clearly the result of climate change,” Environment Minister Mok Mareth told reporters at the conference Wednesday evening.
About 290,000 hectares of rice fields have been damaged by the floods, with water levels on the Mekong and Tonle Bassac rivers expected to rise slightly in coming days.
Brian Lund, East Asia director for Oxfam America, said the floods were a sign that the impacts of climate change “are already here.”
Damages to the nation’s crops could be up to $60 million, he said.
In general, he said, climate change as a concept is confusing in Cambodia. “So we’ve got a lot to do in terms of awareness raising.”
Mok Mareth said Cambodia needed more funding from industrialized countries, as it was a “victim country” that didn’t cause climate change but was suffering as a result.