At least 92 school children collapsed while being forced to stand in the sun as punishment for not showing proper deference to the national flag yesterday at a school in Kampong Cham province, police said.
Heng Meng, chief of Bosknor commune police in Chamkar Leu district, said the students began feeling dizzy and collapsing after the entire student body – some 1,000 pupils – were ordered to stand outside because some of them had arrived late.
“We did not punish the school director because normally, when students do something wrong, their teachers always reeducate to correct them,” he said.
He said the students collapsed in waves, beginning with a group of six pupils, followed by about 50 more, until at least 92 had to be taken to hospital, adding that he believed bad food and a lack of oxygen may have contributed to their sickness.
“The doctor said that they have no problem, and the reason … they fainted was because they did not have enough oxygen,” he said.
Phen Srey Leak, a 16-year-old year 10 student, said one student collapsed about 7 minutes after the school’s director, Heng Phal Rith, became angry and ordered them to stand under the flag for half an hour.
“While one student started fainting, other students became afraid, which caused them to faint together at the same time,” she said.
But health and education experts yesterday offered a variety of possible reasons for the incident.
Mom Chantara Soleil, communications coordinator for Plan International Cambodia, said he would reserve judgment as health officials that his staff have worked directly with suggested different causes.
“It is suspected that the collapse was caused by toxic food or an outbreak of cholera,” he said. “When the students were paying respect to the national flag, one or two students collapsed for about 15 minutes, then the number increased to 50 and finally, about 100 students.”
Iv Then, director of the Bosknor commune health center, said more work needed to be done to determine the real reason behind the students collapsing, because some had eaten and others hadn’t.
Heng Phal Rith could not be reached for comment yesterday, and Hourt Non, director of the Kampong Cham Education Youth and Sport department, said he was unaware of the incident.