As of Sunday, the death toll from toxic rice wine consumption in Kratie province had increased to five. Forty others remain hospitalised, the provincial health department said.
Department director Chhneang Sovutha said the sale of rice wine had been banned in the province's Sambo district pending further investigation.
“At the moment, the victims are being treated while the authorities are probing the cause of death and have temporarily prohibited the sale of rice wine in this district,” he said.
Sovutha said the incident happened on October 18, a day after dozens of villagers joined a funeral in Koh Knhae commune and drank rice wine served by the host family at the reception.
He said the family bought the wine from a brewer in Boeung Cha commune.
He said after drinking the rice wine, the guests suddenly suffered fatigue, headaches and diarrhoea and felt dizzy before vomiting.
“Based on the patients' condition, the rice wine possibly contained an overly high methanol rate that could harm consumers and cause death if they drink too much of it,” he said.
Sambo district governor Soum Sarith said the authorities had also seized more than one hundred litres of rice wine and arrested a brewer after the incident.
“The brewer, Koch Sok Heng from Boeung Cha commune's Dok Por village has been detained for questioning after the victims allegedly consumed his rice wine and got poisoned.
“Five or six victims have died and 40 others are being treated in hospital,” Sarith said.
In May, toxic rice wine and water containing overly high chemical substances also killed 14 people and made dozens of others sick in the province's Kantuot commune, Chet Borey district.