Nine people died on July 4 and 12 others were hospitalised after drinking rice and herbal wines in Svay Tong Khang Tbong commune’s Koh Chhwang village of Kampot province’s Kampong Trach district, according to the General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression (CCF).
CCF’s press release on July 4 stated that it had been determined that there were nine people who had died, while 12 more people were taken to Damnak Chang Eur hospital and Kampong Trach referral hospital for emergency treatment.
According to the press release, the officials collected samples of rice wine and herbal wine at the homes of the victims and from the liquor store they were thought to have obtained the wine from.
The release said that they also continued to search a winery located north of Ang Dambang Dek pagoda in Ta Kngap village of Kampong Trach district’s Svay Tong Kaang Choeung commune.
All collected samples were sent for analysis at the CCF’s laboratory to detect the presence of methanol, a harmful substance sometimes found in improperly made wines or used as a cutting agent to pad the winemaker’s inventory.
However, district governor Oun Khorn Aun Khon told The Post on July 4 that only four people had died on July 3 and that two more died on July 4, while claiming the other three had died as a result of old age – partly contradicting the CCF’s statements.
“They were fishermen in remote areas. At first they thought they were poisoned by mackerel, but after investigating the situation it was determined that some didn’t have mackerel. Therefore, we concluded that it is wine poisoning,” Khorn said.
Khorn said that the seller of the rice wine escaped on July 3 while the police were investigating, but the district administration’s plan was to close down all rice wine production and sales in the area.
Svay Tong Kang Tbong commune chief Lon Sokha said that the six dead were two males and four females, between 33 and 60 in age. He repeated the claim that the other three were dead because of old age and didn’t drink any wine.
“The place where they died was a rural area. They sold wine in small stalls and food to families returning from catching crab and fishing. Right now in this commune there isn’t anyone producing the wine.
“There were two people who used to produce rice wine, but not now. When the authorities searched the area, they found a small amount of wine in a plastic container that was imported from another area,” Sokha said.
According to an announcement by the Ministry of Health on June 3, in the first quarter of this year 31 people in three provinces – Kandal, Kampot and Pursat – died from suspected rice wine poisoning after drinking wine or herbal wine that contained high levels of methanol.
Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng called on the public to stop producing or drinking alcohol that is homemade with improper techniques and equipment and without any supervision or safety regulations, especially rice wine or herbal wine.
He added that if people have health problems or symptoms of poisoning such as headaches, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, blurred vision, seizures, difficulty breathing or other unusual symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately at a nearby public hospital.