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Cyanide ‘not a factor in poisoning deaths’

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Sick villagers are treated for water poisoning at Kratie Provincial Hospital earlier this month. Photo supplied

Cyanide ‘not a factor in poisoning deaths’

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem on Monday refuted claims that deaths in the Kratie province contaminated water case earlier this month involved cyanide.

The claim was made three days after Cham Prasidh, the minister of industry and handicrafts, declared the discovery of cyanide in water samples collected from area.

Sem said the Ministry of Environment sent blood from some of the victims to be tested in Singapore and no cyanide was found, but other poisonous substances were, which the Ministry of Health has said were nitric acid and chromium.

A Chinese gold mine near the area has been checked for the use of cyanide.

At least 14 people have died and around 300 hospitalised after the poisonings in Chet Borey district’s Kantuot commune in Kratie province.

Sem said: “For the poisonings in Kratie province, the Ministry of Environment took blood and tested it in Singapore and there is no cyanide in the blood. But it did contain other poisonous substances, which the Ministry of Health said came from herbicides and insecticides.

“A [Ministry of Mines] team took photos of hundreds of herbicide and insecticide cans next to the streams and that [likely] contributed to some extent.”

Sem did not name the forensic department in Singapore where the Ministry of Environment sent the samples for testing.

Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Environment Ministry, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Um Sotha, spokesman for the Ministry of Industry, told The Post on Tuesday that water samples the ministry brought from the Prek Te and Korki streams for testing contained “cyanide”, but conceded that his ministry had not taken blood for testing.

Kratie provincial authorities and Chet Borey district authorities have said bottled water and food have been taken to the affected villages.

In early May, around 300 people in Sre Norn and Alorch villages in Kantuot commune complained of stomachaches, headaches, neck pain, exhaustion, dizziness and suffocation, and were taken to Kratie Provincial Hospital and Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital.

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