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Kratie officials find brewery ‘linked’ to poisoning deaths

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Villagers are treated at Kratie Provincial Hospital following a contamination incident earlier this month in the province. Photo supplied

Kratie officials find brewery ‘linked’ to poisoning deaths

Local authorities in Kratie province believe they have identified the source of the deadly rice wine, made with lethal levels of methanol that killed 14 people.

The discovery was made after investigations traced the incident to the owner of a brewery who died after drinking his product. Two others also died from consuming the same batch of wine at his funeral.

Phon Phea, Kantuot commune police chief, said: “Six rice wine breweries in Kantuot made the product and police have inspected them as rice wine is linked to the recent spate of deaths in the province.

“One of the six breweries was found using extremely high levels of the chemical in its wine. The owner of that brewery, Tam Heng, also drank his rice wine and died, while two other mourners died after consuming the product at his funeral,” Phea said.

Meanwhile, in Kratie province, Chet Borey District Governor Hang Chandy told The Post on Tuesday that experts and local authorities were checking toxicity levels in the Prek Te and Korki streams to ascertain if a ban on using water from them could be withdrawn following the contamination incident.

Chandy said currently, construction of 13 wells had been completed, with 67 more to go. The wells were sponsored by donors to residents of the Sre Norn and Alorch villages, in Kantuot commune, where rice wine with high levels of methanol and water contaminated with pesticides killed the 14 people and hospitalised another 300.

“At the moment, we do not know whether the toxicity level in the streams has declined. I believe the level has decreased because it rained many times,” he said.

Chandy said the temporary prohibition of production and supply of rice wine in Chet Borey district is still in place, while Phea told The Post that the ban had not been received well by villagers, who have made calls for it to be lifted.

“The ban has upset some rice wine vendors, and they have asked the authorities and experts to withdraw it as they said the poisonous product had already been discovered and destroyed,” Phea said.

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