Hun Sen Warns of Mad Pigs

Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday warned consumers to stop eating imported pork for a few days in case it is infected with “mad pig disease.”

The prime minister, speaking at a graduation ceremony, said he had heard rumors that pigs im­ported from Thailand might be infected. “[We] must be careful,” he said. “I haven’t eaten pork for a few days.”

Inspectors from the Ministry of Health began testing pork sold in local markets on Wednesday.

Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, told Kyodo News, “So far, no reports have been discovered about people being affected by the disease.”

Health Minister Hong Sun Huot said pork from all Phnom Penh markets would be tested. About 1,000 pigs are slaughtered in Phnom Penh each day.

This is the second time in slightly more than a year that reports of mad pig disease, similar to the “mad cow disease” infecting European beef cattle, have circulated.

In December 1999, it was widely rumored that pigs infected with nipah virus disease had been smuggled in from Thailand.

No infected pigs were found in 1999, and there were no reports of illness in humans either.

If Thai pigs are found to be infected this time, Cambodians could be at some risk, as between 200 and 300 pigs per day are imported from Thailand. An unknown additional number are smuggled in, officials say.

Pich Han, the third deputy governor in Koh Kong province, said residents there have been raising more pigs since illegal logging was banned and the fishing trade fell off.

Some of the baby pigs purchased in Thailand come with health certificates ensuring their safety, he said, but others are probably smuggled by boat from Thailand to Koh Kong.

He said Koh Kong sends about 2,000 locally raised pigs a month for sale in Phnom Penh.

Huoth Thoung, director of Koh Kong’s Agriculture Department, said that Koh Kong has 10 hog farms but thousands of other pigs are raised at private homes.

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