Three men died and another two were taken ill after drinking rice wine mixed with seeds from the Strychnos nux-vomica tree, which are used to make strychnine, on Sunday in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district, according to police.
Un Yung, district deputy police chief, said yesterday that the five took the concoction from a monk’s room in the Sithor pagoda, where they were staying overnight for a ceremony, to consume without his knowledge.
“The chief of the monks told them he made the rice wine mixed with the strychnine to treat high temperatures and malaria, and then left,” he explained.
The men drank about a glass of the substance each before falling down inside the pagoda where they were found unconscious by the monk.
Local villagers assisted in getting the men to the hospital, by which time three had already died.
“Two were helped in time because they drank less than the deceased,” said Yung. “They knew that the rice wine was mixed with the strychnine, but they still drank a lot. The monk used 2 kilograms of strychnine mixed with 5 litres of rice wine.”
The report by Kandal province police added that the chief monk had not intended for the men to drink the wine, but had simply mentioned the mixture to one of the five men, who had reported feeling unwell.
“He made the strychnine rice wine for his own use because he used to drink it in minute doses when he was young during the Pol Pot regime, believing it to help him to treat illness,” it read.
Strychnine has been used in traditional medicine in Southeast Asia for generations.