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Cambodian children turned away amid virus fears

Cambodian children turned away amid virus fears

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A Thai teacher walks past a poster displayed as part of an anti Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease campaign at the Education Ministry in Bangkok on July 20, 2012. Photograph: AFP PHOTO / Pornchai Kittiwongsakul

At least 100 Cambodian beggar children were turned away at Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet district border crossing by Thai authorities over the weekend because they had high fevers – an early symptom of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease – Cambodian border officials said.

However, Cambodian authorities said Thailand was being overzealous and anxious in sending back the children, who upon inspection presented only a simple high fever.

“In fact, the Thai authorities fear the spreading of EV71 at the border to their Thai children, so they are providing free medical control and medicine to Cambodian children,” Keo Sopheakra, Banteay Meanchey health department director, said.

“But they do not have this disease [EV71]. They have a simple fever that can be treated with a simple kind of medicine,” Sopheakra said.

Thai authorities on Friday began the medical control campaign to check all Cambodian children crossing into Thailand at Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet district after region wide anxiety spread over highly-publicised fatal cases of severe EV71 in the Kingdom.

Parents of Cambodian children who cross the border to beg in Thailand’s Rong Kluea district were taking advantage of the free medical check and medicines offered on the Thai side, according to Thai news reports describing some 300 children being taken by their parents for the free check-up.

In Phnom Penh, a case of EV71 in a three-year-old child living at the demolished Borei Keila site has been confirmed.

Chum Ngan, the representative of more than 100 families in Borei Keila community who are now living at the site of their former homes under tents and canvass amidst piles of rotting rubbish, said that it is would be difficult to contain the spread of EV71 among children living in the squalor.

“We are deeply concerned about this disease, because our children can be infected owing to malnutrition and maltreatment,” she said. “We plead the Phnom Penh municipal authority to speed up the housing resolution for us.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David at [email protected]
Khouth Sophak Chakrya at [email protected]
With assistance from Bangkok Post

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