Ministry lifts ban on herbicides

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A ban on imports lasted two weeks after a poisoning case killed 13 people. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The import of agricultural pesticides and herbicides resumed yesterday after a two-week ban that was prompted by a poisoning case in Kratie province that hospitalised hundreds and left 13 people dead.

Two weeks ago, the Agriculture Ministry imposed a temporary ban on all imports following the poisoning case in Kratie province’s Chetr Borie district, where villagers fell ill from tainted stream water. The government blamed the tainted stream on toxic run-off from herbicides.

According to a ministry statement obtained yesterday, in response to the Kratie incident, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon ordered the Department of Agricultural Legislation and provincial agricultural, forestry and fishery departments to instruct companies, wholesalers and consumers to follow safety standards when using pesticides and herbicides.

The ministry also issued a ban on imports that was lifted yesterday, the statement added.

“The ministry has allowed pesticide firms and wholesalers to resume importing and distributing pesticides as long as they comply with the law regulating the handling of agricultural pesticide and fertiliser,” Mr Sakhon said in the statement.

Mr Sakhon said that relevant authorities at international checkpoints must resume the facilitation of pesticide and fertiliser trade and prevent illegal smuggling.

Phun Ra, director of the Department of Agricultural Legislation at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that provincial authorities have instructed companies, sellers and consumers to understand how to handle pesticides.

“We have done our research so that we can explain to people how to handle pesticides so they can understand the impact of using pesticides,” Mr Ra said. “We can’t eliminate the use of pesticides because farmers use it to cultivate crops.”

The ministry lifted the ban yesterday. KT/Chor Sokunthea

He added that the ministry invited nine companies with economic land concessions to have a meeting on June 7 in order to coordinate their use of pesticides.

“We went to two locations where two companies are operating in Ratanakkiri province and we found no problems,” he said. “We have made a contract with the owners so that they can be held accountable if something bad happens.”

The Senate on Monday passed an amendment on a law regulating mineral resources management and exploitation in a bid to regulate the mining sector and punish offenders.

The move came after villagers in Kratie voiced concern over the government’s reasoning for the poisoning, arguing that gold mining run-off from neighbouring provinces was to blame.

Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang said that the amendment allowed the Ministry of Mines and Energy to create its own judicial police force.

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