Authorities in Kratie province have temporarily closed three rice wine production facilities after two poisoning incidents left three people dead and many more ill last week.
Kratie provincial Governor Va Thorn said in a report to Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday that a total of three people died, while 62 people, including 19 women, were hospitalised due to methanol poisoning.
The incidents led provincial authorities to temporarily close three rice wine production facilities in Sambo district, Kratie city and Snuol district. Authorities also took samples for lab tests and will proceed with further action against the facility owners once results are produced.
“We temporarily closed the rice wine production facilities because we suspect that they were making rice wine improperly,” said Kong Vanrith, chief of Kratie province’s anti-economic crime bureau. “We have to take the samples for testing at a lab in Phnom Penh.”
He added that if found negligent, the facility owners could face legal action.
“Right now, we won’t take action until we find out exactly what the results show,” Mr Vanrith said.
Chhneang Sovutha, director of the Kratie provincial health department, said on Saturday that the two poisoning incidents occurred within two days.
The first happened during a party in Snuol district on Thursday, which left three people dead, including 37-year-old Prech Sinath, 32-year-old Hun Sreylai, and 57-year-old Hor Hun.
The second incident occurred during Ms Sinath’s funeral on Friday, which led to the hospitalisation of dozens of people.
Mr Sovutha said that rice wine was served to dozens of villagers at Ms Sinath’s funeral on Friday.
“According to our observations, we have preliminarily concluded that the villagers got sick after consuming methanol-laced rice wine,” Mr Sovutha said.
Mr Sovutha said that the victims displayed symptoms of poisoning, including fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and chest pains.
Keang Hong, director of the provincial referral hospital, said yesterday that the sick villagers are recovering.
“After the poisoning, they were sent to both the provincial referral hospital, as well as Snuol district hospital,” Mr Hong said. “The patients are now recovering.”
Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann could not be reached for comment yesterday. In a separate incident in May, the Health Ministry partially blamed the death of 13 villagers in Kratie province’s Chetr Borei district on methanol-laced rice wine.
The ministry also blamed tainted stream water contaminated by herbicides and pesticides, leading villages to cast doubt on the government’s explanation and offer a theory that the stream was contaminated by gold mining run-off from neighbouring provinces.