Confusion Over Blood Testing Closes Koh Kong Checkpoint

Koh Kong’s international checkpoint shut down briefly Tuesday morning because Cambodians thought Thai authorities were conducting mandatory blood tests on all those crossing the border, officials and villagers said.

Koh Kong provincial police chief Sam Khetvean said Wednesday by telephone that Thai physicians ap­peared Tuesday morning at Cham Yeam International Check­point without forewarning and began lining up Cambodians for blood tests.

Sam Khetvean said Cambodian vendors crossing the border thought the tests were mandatory, causing a growing mass of angry Cambodians to mill outside the checkpoint office and others to turn back home for fear of having their blood sampled.

The checkpoint was then closed for about 15 minutes while Thai and Cambodian police met and the Thai physicians agreed to leave.

“Every year at this month, they always come by the border and do blood testing for malaria and pro­vide free medicine…. The mistake was that they did not inform us in advance” this year, he said.

“People were afraid and it led to anarchy,” he added.

Among a group of about 20 Cam­bodians who received the malaria test was vendor Tro Hiroh, 56, who said she and her husband felt forced to submit to blood tests.

“They asked us to make a row for blood testing before we could cross the border,” she said by telephone Wednesday. “I did not want the test, but I had to do it because I needed to sell my vegetables in the Thai market. Other people ran away because they were just going to Thailand to buy goods.

“Now, I am a bit worried because I do not know what they put in the syringe,” she said.

Thai Foreign Ministry press officer Apirat Sugondhabhirom said by telephone from Bangkok that the incident, if it happened, was instituted by local authorities and the ministry could provide no im­mediate information.

“It sounds quite strange to me,” he added.

    (Additional reporting by Stephen Kurczy)


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