Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon to take action to prevent the spread of bird flu (H5N1) from Vietnam into the Kingdom as an outbreak of the disease plagues southern Vietnam.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for teachers at the National Institute of Education, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he is concerned Vietnamese farmers may attempt to smuggle their chickens into Cambodia to avoid income losses before they are culled by Vietnamese authorities.

“I got information about the bird flu starting to break out in southern Vietnam. So, the Ministry of Agriculture has to take precautionary measures. Because of climate change, the avian flu has spread to southern Vietnam,” he said.

The H5N1 outbreak was detected in Tra Vinh province in southern Vietnam, the Vietnam News Agency reported on Monday.

The provincial Department of Animal and Livestock Health said chickens raised by two families tested positive for the bird flu virus, and about 1,000 chickens were culled.

This year, Vietnam has confirmed 16 avian influenza cases and has culled 55,000 chickens.

General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general Tan Phannara said on Tuesday that Sakhon phoned him immediately after receiving Hun Sen’s order to take action to prevent the spread of the bird flu.

He said at the annual review meeting on Tuesday attended by veterinary officials and all provincial department directors, he issued urgent instructions to strengthen measures to prevent bird imports from Vietnam.

Phannara said the ministry would issue an additional directive to stop importing chickens from Vietnam from now on until a new directive is issued.

“Veterinary officials in Vietnam are just like our veterinary officials in Cambodia because we are under the roof of a global veterinary organisation. So, when the disease breaks out, we make a declaration that this is an outbreak area.

“However, once experts re-test and follow up again, confirming that the area is not infected, the Vietnamese side will make a statement. Once Vietnam declares that there is no viral infection, we can resume imports,” Phannara said.

He said Cambodia imports very few chickens from Vietnam, with most coming from Thailand at a rate of roughly 16,000 per day to meet demand.