HIV-Infected Villagers Continue Trial Testimony

More than 20 HIV-infected villagers provided testimony during the third day of the trial of an unlicensed medic—accused of infecting more than 270 people with the virus—at the Battambang Provincial Court on Thursday, a court official said.

“Twenty-two plaintiffs were questioned on Thursday,” said Tieng Sambo, spokeswoman for the court, adding that hearings would continue on Tuesday.

Toch Sopheakdey, spokesman for the provincial prosecutor’s office, said that the 57 victims who testified during the first three days of the trial had all provided similar accounts.

“The evidence of those plaintiffs…is that they have never been treated by any other doctor. They have only been treated by Yem Chrin,” Mr. Sopheakdey said.

Mr. Chrin is charged with aggravated murder for his role in an HIV outbreak that has rocked Sangke district’s Roka commune. Ten villagers have died of HIV-related illnesses since the epidemic was first reported in December.

Authorities say Mr. Chrin regularly provided injections and IVs to his patients during home visits and reused syringes between treatments, causing the virus to spread.

If convicted, the 56-year-old medic faces life in prison. He is also charged with intentionally spreading the virus and operating without a medical license.

Contacted after Thursday’s hearing, Em Sovann, Mr. Chrin’s lawyer, said that while the testimony from the HIV-infected villagers was consistent, it did not prove any of the charges.

“The plaintiffs do not have any new evidence to accuse my client,” Mr. Sovann said. “My client did not have any intention or purpose to infect the villagers with the HIV virus.”

Chak Chenda, a Roka villager who testified against the unlicensed medic on Wednesday, admitted that she could not be certain of Mr. Chrin’s intentions, but said she was convinced he was responsible for her infection and her 4-month-old son’s death.

“I do not know whether or not Yem Chrin knows that he is the person who infected me with the HIV virus,” Ms. Chenda said. “I am very angry with him because he is the person who made my son die…. I request the court sentence him to life.”

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