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Ratanakkiri ‘vampire’ deaths dismissed by health officials

FOUR ethnic minority men who died in Ratanakkiri province’s Voeun Sai district over the past month were not killed by vampires or spirits,
despite reports to the contrary from local villagers, provincial health officials who visited the area over the weekend said Monday.
Rather, they were likely the victims of heart attacks and poisonings, the officials said.

Tha Bunthak, deputy director of the provincial health department, said five health officials visited Voeun Sai district on Sunday to investigate the deaths, and that doctors and health officials from across the province had attended a meeting on Monday to discuss the cases.

“After we spent a whole morning together, we can evaluate that they died because of poisoning and heart attack,” he said. “It is not because of a vampire or spirit as those villagers thought.”

District police chief Toeun Nou Thorng said Monday that two of the men had died in Korng Nork village, and the other two had died in Kok Lak village. He added that the four deaths took place between May 25 and June 24, and that marks on the necks of all four victims had led villagers to believe that they had been attacked by vampires.

Tha Bunthak said investigating health officials had settled on a more prosaic explanation for the neck wounds.

“Before they stopped breathing they felt difficulties, and they always pinch or scratch on their body,” he said.

He added that health officials suspected that some of the victims had been accidentally poisoned by food, water or alcohol, but said that the cause of death had not been formally determined for any of the four men.

Toeun Nou Thorng said it was common for ethnic minority villagers in the district to pray rather than seek medical help for illnesses. He said police officials had visited residents of both villages to encourage them “not to be afraid” of receiving medical help.

Tha Bunthak said health officials visiting the district on Sunday had also taken the opportunity to urge locals to seek medical help in case of illness.

“I explained and educated them not to believe in the spirit more than technology, and I urged them to go to health centres or hospitals when they are sick,” he said. “It is very difficult to change their belief or habit, but we try our best to help them and change them step by step.”



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