Chicken Deaths in Phnom Penh Not Reported

Villagers living on the outskirts of the capital said late last week that they have experienced mass chick­en deaths two years in a row. But until recently, no inspectors had come to the area to test for avian influenza, despite villa­gers’ reports to commune officials.

Instead, an NGO employee wor­k­­ing in the community of An­long Kong alerted agriculture officials about the deaths of 400 chickens in the village and tests were performed Friday.

The Agriculture Ministry was still waiting Sunday for results from tests performed on chickens taken from Anlong Kong village in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar commune to determine whether the chickens had bird flu, Deputy Director of Animal Health and Production Suon Sotheoun said.

On Thursday, villagers said that even though they were in­formed about bird flu, they still ate the birds after they died mysteriously.

“Some people ate dead chickens because [they are] poor,” Deputy village Chief Sum Phea­rum said. He said the chickens died suddenly in January, including 14 of his own flock.

Sum Phearum said he reported the mysterious deaths to commune officials, but no one came to inspect the birds.

According to the World Health Organization, bird flu is not transmissible by eating properly cook­ed chicken, but it recommends against preparing sick chickens for consumption.

Sa Ran, 35, said Thursday that 20 of his chickens and 10 ducks died, but he ate some of them and sold others. During last year’s bird flu outbreak, he said 40 of his chickens had died suddenly.

“I buried small ones, but the bigger ones I ate and sold them,” he said.”

Nuon Mom, a 36-year-old villager, said she was only made aware of bird flu by radio broadcasts this month.

Most Anlong Kong villagers were relocated to the re­mote site by the government in Feb­ruary 2002 after a fire destroyed their homes along the central Tonle Bassac area of the city in Nov­em­ber 2001. Many bought chickens on micro-credit loans, according to the NGO worker who asked not to be named.

(Additional re­por­ting by Erik Wasson)


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