As resentment continues to fester among villagers who have tested positive for HIV in Battambang province’s Roka commune, the family of the unlicensed doctor accused of spreading the virus has fled their home out of concern for their safety.
More than 200 villagers living in Sangke district’s Roka commune have tested positive for HIV since testing began in early December. The cause of the outbreak remains unknown, but a government-led study released last week concluded that the virus was most likely transmitted via injections or intravenous drips.
Yem Chrin, an unlicensed doctor who treated many of the commune’s residents using injections, was jailed on murder charges on December 22.
Mr. Chrin’s daughter, Chrin Reaksa, said Thursday that a mob of angry villagers threatened her family with violence late last week.
“About seven men carrying knives and axes came to our house,” she said. “They yelled and hit rice bags and one rice bag was torn open. I was at home alone with my 3-year-old while my husband had gone out to work.”
Ms. Reaksa said a group of villagers then held a meeting on Monday to request that authorities shut down the grocery business she ran out of the house.
Commune police chief Chin Rang confirmed that the meeting took place, but said he was unaware that residents had previously attempted to intimidate the doctor’s daughter.
“[The villagers] had a meeting and a discussion with the authorities in order to close the house and their grocery shop,” said Mr. Rang, who attended the meeting in an effort to calm down the participants.
Mr. Rang said he visited Ms. Reaksa after the meeting and instructed her to temporarily shutter the business and leave her home.
Ms. Reaksa said that after locking up their home on Monday, she moved with her family into her mother-in-law’s house.
“I am worried about my family’s safety,” she said. “I have not allowed my daughter to go out alone like before because I am afraid she will…maybe get kidnapped. It is hard for me to live here now; I am fed up with life.”