Police in Tbong Khmum province on Wednesday questioned female Cham Muslim students who suffered from a mass fainting episode at their boarding house on Saturday evening, while the owner of their school said he believed the incident was linked to long-standing tension in the local Muslim community.
The 24 students told police they were getting ready for bed on Saturday when they saw the shadows of two people underneath their stilted home and then became dizzy and began to faint one by one.
Although hospital staff who treated the girls and women found no traces of chemical substances in their bodies, police are investigating the possibility that they were victims of a poison attack motivated by tension in the community.
Muhammab Abbulrahman, a teacher and the owner of the school in Kroch Chhmar district’s Trea commune, said the school had drawn the ire of “Cham people in the village” since it opened in 2013.
Mr. Abbulrahman said he collected $100,000 in donations from Muslim friends in Turkey to build the eight-room schoolhouse in 2011.
“I want the school to be used by Muslims from all over Cambodia but [the locals] want it to belong to them…and then they started to get angry with me,” he said.
“On November 3, I got an anonymous letter calling me a ‘dog’ that said if I did not agree to hand over this school to them, I would ‘end up as a corpse.’”
“Sometimes they throw feces on the roof of my house and the school,” he said. “Before, we ignored it, but now we cannot because they have targeted the students.”
District deputy police chief Ouk Pov said police brought five or six victims to the scene on Wednesday and questioned them about the incidents leading up to the fainting, adding that they had no suspects or leads.
Mok Toeut, the father of one of the victims, said his 14-year-old daughter was shaken by the incident.
“My daughter is really scared…and does not want to study anymore,” he said.