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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Where's the money? Poor poultry farmers hamper government's war on bird flu

Where's the money? Poor poultry farmers hamper government's war on bird flu


Farmers in Kampot province are telling the government it must pay compensation

for culling their poultry if it wants their cooperation in the war against bird

flu.

"Caution! Don't let this problem happen," reads the sign. "Let's work together to stop bird flu."

Villagers and a local veterinarian in Angkor Chey district, where

there was an outbreak of bird flu late last month, said district agricultural

officials swept through the village, killed then burned hundreds of birds

belonging to six families, and paid no compensation. The reaction of other

villagers was to secretly sell their poultry at the market, regardless of

whether it might be infected.

A 12-year-old boy died of bird flu on

April 4 in Prey Veng province. A three-year-old girl died of the disease in

Kampong Speu province on March 22. Last year, four people living in Kampong

Trach district in Kampot died of H5N1 bird flu.

Iv Sambor, a veterinarian

in Kammakar village, Angkor Chey district, said, "To fight bird flu efficiently,

the government should pay compensation to the people who suffered

damage."

He said the government should pay farmers at least 30 to 50

percent of the value of slaughtered birds to get their cooperation.

Agriculture officials culling poultry, are facing resistance from farmers denied compensation.

"It

is very important to have participation from people," he said.

Im Yoy,

32, a farmer in Kammakar village, said district agricultural officials

slaughtered her 113 ducks on March 29, costing her the entire two million riel

(about $500) that she had borrowed from the state to buy the ducks and unhusked

rice to feed them.

"They burned my ducks: how can I pay back the state?

The only one way [to pay back the two million] is that I have to sell my land,"

Yoy said.

"I asked them for 500,000 riel in compensation, but they did

not agree," she said. "I am afraid of raising poultry any more because I am

afraid that they will kill them again. Now I do not know how to make a living

for my family."

Doeu Sokheng, 43, who lives in Kaksekar, a village not

far from Kammakar, said her fellow villagers' reaction to the Kammakar slaughter

was to rush their chickens and ducks to the market to sell them, for fear they

would be next in line for slaughter.

Spraying to combat the virus.

Sokheng said she has about 50

chickens but most of them were too young to sell.

"We are afraid now that

our chickens and ducks will get bird flu and be burned," she said.

Kun

Siv, director of Angkor Chey District Agriculture Department, said the

government does not compensate people whose poultry is burned because of bird

flu.

"Even though locals get angry, we try to [kill and burn chickens

and ducks] in order to preserve [the people's] lives, because bird flu is more

serious than AIDS," Siv said. "If someone gets it, they will not have medicine

to cure them, and five days to one week later, that person must die. But we

don't have any policy to compensate [owners of slaughtered

poultry]."

Veterinarian Iv Sambor said after chickens and ducks of the

six families in Kammakar village were slaughtered on March 29, neighboring

poultry farmers, frightened that their birds would be killed and burned as well,

secretly caught their poultry and sold it, regardless of whether it might be

infected.

"People are so poor and they depend entirely on their poultry

to make their living," Sambor said. "If their chickens and ducks are all burned,

how they can survive? So it is reasonable that they secretly take some chickens

and ducks to sell."

Siv said of the mass cullings, "We have no choice

because it is the government policy. What is most important is that we focus on

[preserving] human lives. When humans are alive, they can have poultry. But if

they die, they have nothing."

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