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1 dead, many ill after eating poisonous frogs

1 dead, many ill after eating poisonous frogs

Siem Reap

ONE child has died, another is critically ill in hospital, two others were hospitalised and released, and three adults were treated by doctors after eating poisonous frogs in one of Siem Reap's poorest villages, Mondul 3.

At 8am Sunday, four boys ate brown frogs they'd caught after the rains, and by 10:30 Sov Soparath, the son of a soldier home on leave from Preah Vihear temple, was dead. His brother is still critically ill in Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital.

Two other boys were rushed to hospital but recovered and were allowed home late on Sunday. Three men who also ate the frogs were treated at Siem Reap Provincial Hospital and given injections.

Kem Sour, managing director of the New Hope Community Centre in the village, said the poisoning was the result of the people in Mondul 3 village being so poor they had no alternative but to forage for wild food. He said the flesh of the brown frogs that villagers ate is not toxic, but that the guts are, and this is heightened when female frogs are pregnant after heavy rains.

The centre's director, Kerry Huntly, said this is not the first time villagers have been poisoned after eating  frogs. "About three months ago, two little army girls, one 3-year-old and one 5-year-old, caught a frog ... grilled it, ate it and were severely sick. At one stage, the younger girl was not expected to survive, but she pulled through," she said.

"This is what happens when you have poverty like this. This lot here don't have a choice when it comes to food, and they'll eat anything. They also eat ants that sometimes make them sick."

Too poor for a coffin

On Sunday afternoon the body of Sov Soparath was placed in a small makeshift coffin made from a wooden table, fitted with a gold aluminium foil lid and paraded by procession on a cart through villages in the area as a warning about eating poisonous frogs.

The boy's family could not afford to pay US$250 for a funeral, but New Hope gave the family the money, and then embarked on an email fundraiser that instantly netted over $1,000. "We'll use the extra money to improve the family house, which is desperately in need of repair," Huntly said, adding that the organisation would also pay for the education of Sov Soparath's younger brothers.

The boy's father was due to return to  Preah Vihear early this week, but the village chief has given him permission to remain at home for another week.

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