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Cambodia: Thirteen dead, hundreds hospitalised; villagers suspect stream water is poisoned by run-off from gold mines

Author: Khy Sovuthy, Khmer Times, Published on: 13 May 2018

"Villagers doubt changing causes of poisoning deaths", 11 May 2018

Hundreds of villagers in Kratie province were hospitalised and 13 died from poisoning first blamed on contaminated water and then methanol-laced rice wine; villagers here have another theory: chemicals from gold mining run-off.

...[V]illagers now believe that the truth is being hidden: that the stream was poisoned by run-off from gold mining operations in the area being run by Indian and Chinese companies.

...[O]fficials have shot down the gold mining theory being discussed by villagers.

Pen Lina, deputy provincial governor of Ratanakkiri, says..."We arrived at gold mine digging areas, but none of the places were operating," he says. "Those places stopped being operational about four or five years ago."

The Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts...lab tests showed the rice wine had a methanol level of 11.22 percent, way above the maximum allowable level of 0.15 percent.

...[S]tream water had a chromium level of 173 micrograms per litre, while the maximum allowable level is just 50 micrograms per litre.

The water also had a nitrate level from seven to 23 milligrams per litre, while the maximum allowable level is just three milligrams per litre.

...Chhneang Sovatha, director of the provincial health department, says that most of the villagers were poisoned by methanol. 

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