At least 320 children and three teachers were poisoned during morning classes at their Kampot province primary school over the weekend, provincial officials said Tuesday.
The three teachers and 212 of the children at Truy Koh Primary School were rushed by ambulance to Kampot Provincial Hospital Saturday morning after complaining of headaches, dizziness and vomiting.
Two boys remained in critical condition over the weekend, one with abdominal pains and another with breathing problems. Both recovered and were released Monday evening, said Yim Sambath, director of the provincial health department.
The other victims were treated either at the scene or the hospital and released later Saturday.
The cause of the incident in Kompong Bay district remains under investigation. Local police speculated that someone poisoned a basin of drinking water in the school compound.
Provincial Governor Ly Sour said a closed classroom might have been sprayed with poison during the night.
“I think it is a subversive act,” the governor said, without elaborating. He added that the poison could have come from a number of sources, including food sold by teachers in the school compound.
Samples of food, water and vomit were sent to Phnom Penh’s Pasteur Institute for preliminary tests. Those tests were inconclusive, however, and the samples will be sent to France for further study, said Eng Huot, director general of the Health Department at the Ministry of Health.
In Vietnam’s Daklak province, authorities have reported a series of similar poisonings in which more than 600 students and teachers were sickened by mysterious chemical attacks earlier this year. Officials there blamed the attacks on local ethnic minorities, who recently have staged unusually violent protests against the government which they say has suppressed their Christian faith and denied land rights.
Saturday’s poisonings were the first of their kind in Cambodia.