Three Clinics Closed, Four Arrested in B’bang

Five months after health workers first detected an outbreak of HIV in Battambang province’s Roka commune, where more than 250 residents have tested positive for the virus, authorities on Wednesday shut down three unlicensed medical clinics in the province being operated by Chinese nationals, officials said.

The spread of the virus has been blamed on Yem Chrin, a man who offered cut-rate medical services to many of the infected villagers and was jailed on murder charges after admitting to reusing syringes on his patients.

In response to the outbreak, the ministries of health and interior said they would seek to root out unlicensed doctors and clinics, which are commonly used in rural communities with poor access to the state’s healthcare system.

Chet Vanny, deputy Battambang provincial police chief, said authorities Wednesday arrested four Chinese nationals—at least two who also held Cambodian citizenship—and shut down three clinics in Phnom Proek district and Sampov Loun district.

“We arrested four Chinese nationals who operated the clinics,” Mr. Vanny said. “We confiscated some medicine and medical material.”

Phnom Proek district police chief Song Sopheak said the operation—led by provincial police chief Sar Thet and provincial prosecutor Nuon San—was part of the government’s response to the Roka commune outbreak.

“This is the first time we’ve cracked down in my district,” he said. “After the Roka commune case happened, our authorities were told to crack down on illegal, private clinics and healthcare providers who do not have licenses.”

Mr. Sopheak said that Keo Sovan Sokyan, 63, and Vann Siengheng, 32, who hold dual Chinese and Cambodian citizenship, were arrested for operating the unlicensed clinic in Bour commune.

“They opened the clinic but they did not have a license,” he said, adding that the pair was being held at provincial police headquarters for questioning.

Chhit Seng, deputy police chief in Sampov Loun district, said two clinics were shut down in his district, referring further questions to district penal police chief Ly Rom.

Mr. Rom said that two Chinese nationals had been arrested and identified them as Guo Liuana, 52, and Ma Phy, 48, who are also being held by provincial police for questioning.

“Guo Liuana opened the clinic about 10 years ago and Ma Phy just opened his clinic about two or three years ago, but we did not know if they had a license or not,” said Mr. Rom.

“They have doctor certificates from China, but they opened the clinics without a license from the Ministry of Health,” he added.

In February, Battambang provincial authorities ordered nine unlicensed doctors to shut down their home-care practices in the province, including six in Roka commune.

By Beng Sor, chief of the Roka Commune Health Center, said Wednesday that he hoped the campaign against unlicensed and unregulated healthcare providers in the province would continue.

“I think that all the clinics and the health service places that do not have licenses should be closed and their directors arrested in order to avoid another case like what happened in Roka,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)

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