Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday called on Asean member states to work together on cross-border rescues of citizens in the wake of natural or man-made disasters.
The request comes amid meetings over the formation of the Asean Economic Community, an integration effort that is expected to take shape by the end of the year.
Hun Sen made his request at an Asean ministerial meeting for disaster management held in Phnom Penh, saying cross-border rescue efforts could help response to disasters.
“I raised an example of the Cambodian and Thai borders,” he said. “If the markets or homes were [in danger] along Cambodia’s border and the intervention from the Cambodian side must take place, it’s clear that it would be far away. But if the intervention was conducted with firefighter vehicles sent from Thailand, it would be easy to manage.”
Hun Sen recommended a disaster alert strategy be reached soon. His request comes at a time of growing awareness of Cambodia’s vulnerability to natural disasters, especially flooding and drought, both of which could be exacerbated under climate change.
The US announced an offer of $100 million in August 2014 to countries in Asia and Africa to deal with disasters, especially food shortages, and respond to climate change and other root factors of poverty.
Yem Ponhearith, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, told VOA Khmer that Cambodia must rely on cooperation with other countries in Asean to aid in case of major disasters. “I think that our country still lacks both human resources and the means to rescue people, so it’s good to cooperate with others.”
Officials at the National Committee for Disaster Management could not immediately be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Cambodia has already passed a law on disaster management, one that includes provisions to punish officials for incompetence if they fail to adequately assess or respond to disasters, with fines and up to two years in jail.