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Methanol rates high in deadly rice wine

Ministry of Health spokesperson Ly Sovan speaking to reporters at a press conference in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Ly Sovan speaking to reporters at a press conference in Phnom Penh yesterday. Pha Lina

Methanol rates high in deadly rice wine

A ministry of Health press conference yesterday revealed that methanol levels in the rice wine that recently claimed the lives of 15 people and left 78 others hospitalised in Kampong Chhnang were significantly higher than the normal rate of 0.15 percent, with laboratory samples containing 0.2 percent to 1.47 percent of the toxic substance.

Officials are still analysing the methanol rates, said ministry spokesman Ly Sovann. “The patients and the villagers who died had the same symptoms,” he said. “They were poisoned by the methanol.” The first rice wine casualty occurred on November 3 in Domnak Ampil village and other deaths soon followed.

Only one suspect, 48-year-old Thann Ly, has so far been charged, according to Chun Dara, deputy police for economic crimes in Kampong Chhnang. Dara said Ly was charged last week for “distributing toxic substances”, adding no one else has been charged.

Provincial court spokesman Long Sitha couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday. Five others, including two rice wine producers, one ingredient vendor and two wine vendors, were previously questioned and released. Sovann said the ministry doesn’t yet have measures to regulate rice wine producers and distributors, but urged other relevant authorities to help monitor its production.

Dr Yel Daravuth, an alcohol specialist with the WHO Cambodia, yesterday said a draft law on the control of alcohol production has been pending in the Council of Ministers since July 2015, a delay he suggested could be due to lobbying by the alcohol industry.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY YESENIA AMARO

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