Police arrested 11 people in Kandal province’s Lvea Em district on May 19 for selling rice and herbal wine containing excessive amounts of methanol.

The death toll from tainted wine has increased to 13.

District police chief Heng Sophal told The Post on May 20 that the 11 people were caught selling wine with too much methanol and were sent to the provincial police.

“I do not know if I will release or detain them because it is beyond my jurisdiction,” he said.

Sophal also said that six other people who sold wine in the district were instructed by local authorities on how to mix alcohol and to stop selling alcohol during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that in addition to those poisoned and died, four others were hospitalised at the district health centre and two others in critical condition were transferred to hospitals in Phnom Penh.

At the same time, more than 90 people who drank rice and herbal wine went mobile health centres for consultation after authorities contacted households.

Sophal also said Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn instructed local authorities to prevent the sale of alcohol, especially rice and herbal wine and authorities need to contact all outlets to stop and temporarily suspend sales until a new policy is announced.

“We also went to the funeral home to advise them not to drink alcohol to prevent endangering the lives of other people in the village. Most villagers drink at funerals,” he said.

Provincial police chief Chhoeun Sochet could not be reached for comment on May 20 regarding the 11 detainees.

Sophorn confirmed that both the provincial and district police forces have processed all cases related to alcohol poisoning, and are continuing to carry out legal proceedings against producers and sellers.

“We are implementing the law and offenders must be punished, especially the producers,” Sophorn said.

Sophorn said that the victims died because they drank almost every day not as the result of a binge session. District and commune authorities have assisted the families of the deceased.

Consumer Protection Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General on May 20 reported that the incident in Lvea Em district was the result of too much methanol, which exceeded the limit by 10 to 100 times. If a person drinks 100ml or more, it can cause death.

The Ministry of Health on May 20 also called on people to immediately stop drinking contaminated wine, especially alcohol mixed with methanol.