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Fish die-off in Battambang worries locals

HUNDREDS of kilograms of dead fish and shrimp were found floating along a 400-metre stretch of small river in Battambang's Sampov Loun district near the Thai-Cambodian border on Monday morning, according to local officials and villagers.

"We do not know the reason why so many fish and small shrimp have been killed," said Kieng Sothy, the deputy police chief for Sampov Loun district.

The cause of the die-off is still unknown, but health officials are warning villagers not to eat the dead aquatic life.

"We told them not to eat these fish and small shrimp because it might make them sick," said Teap Sython, the director of Operational District Health in Sampov Loun.

Many locals, however, have not been heeding the advice of local health officials.

In Kilo Dobey village, Kieng Sothy said that villagers gathered the dead fish and shrimp and cooked them up for meals.

"They ate them, but they did not get poisoned or sick by eating them," he said.

Kieng Sothy suspects that chemical fertilisers running off from nearby farms may be to blame.

"We suspect they were killed by chemicals from peoples' farms because it rained a lot that night," he said. "We are investigating it but we have no information about it."

The dead aquatic life worries local villagers because, though they do not drink directly from the river, they bathe and clean their kitchen utensils in the river water, according to Bun Thy, a local resident who rushed to the river when he first heard the news.

Teap Sython said he collected fish and water samples and sent them to a laboratory in Phnom Penh, and that Thai officials were also investigating the deaths.

"We sent fish and water to a laboratory in Phnom Penh, but I have not yet gotten the results. I was told they need a few more days to check it," Teap Sython said. "We are anxious to know so we can take measures to protect for people's health and the lives of animals."

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