Five Cambodian fishermen died at sea from an undetermined illness, while 20 more are currently hospitalised in Thailand’s Ranong Provincial Hospital, officials at the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said yesterday.
Lamatin Cheam, the counsellor in charge of Cambodian labour at the embassy in Bangkok, said in an interview yesterday that the five deceased were part of a crew of 25 Cambodians and six Thai nationals, and had been fishing in the Indian Ocean since April.
According to Cheam, two Cambodian fishermen died on December 27, prompting the crew to return to Thailand. But while en route, three more Cambodians and one Thai crew member died under similar circumstances, the last death occurring just one day before the group reached port on January 14.
“We do not know the exact reason why they died, but the Thai [police] report to Cambodia’s embassy is that they were sick, lacking in Vitamin B,” he said.
“They had dizziness and then they were sick and died,” Cheam continued, adding that the embassy is trying to contact relatives to notify them of the deaths while also investigating whether the five were working legally.
Cheam said all five had passports and that the men were in their twenties, with four of the victims hailing from Siem Reap province and one from Svay Rieng province.
Once ashore, 22 of the surviving crew members, of whom 20 are Cambodian, were immediately taken to the Ranong Provincial Hospital, Chaem said. A nurse at the hospital yesterday declined to comment on the status of the sick fishermen.
Thai media reported that, following preliminary medical examinations, Vitamin B deficiency resulting in collapse of the central nervous system is thought to be the cause of death, although autopsy results are pending.
Reportedly, crew members fell ill a day after eating a sea bird that one crew member caught and cooked, ignoring warnings from the skipper that doing so would bring sickness or shipwreck upon the crew.
A spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said more information would be available today.