Two Released, One Detained Over Tainted Wine

A man and a woman were released from police custody on Saturday just hours after they were arrested for allegedly producing methanol-tainted rice wine that caused the deaths of 15 people who drank it at funerals in Kompong Chhnang province, police said on Sunday.

Kong Chhen, 54, a yeast supplier, was released along with Thann Nhanh, 37, a wine producer and sister of Thann Vy, 45, also a wine producer, who was arrested on Thursday and remains in detention, said Chin Sophat, chief of provincial anti-economic crime police.

The pair was released because “police found she [Ms. Nhanh] stopped producing wine two months ago,” Mr. Sophat said, adding that police also did not find any methanol at Mr. Chhen’s house.

Mr. Vy has pleaded his innocence, but has been identified by a number of villagers in Toek Phos district’s Kraing Skear commune as the supplier of the tainted wine, Mr. Sophat said.

“He claimed his rice wine is not poisonous, but the villagers are complaining that he is the one who supplied the wine to the funerals,” he said.

Mr. Sophat added that Mr. Vy, who resides in the neighboring Kdol Senchey commune, would be sent to provincial court today.

Since Wednesday, a total of 78 people have been admitted to the provincial referral hospital after drinking the wine, which tests have since shown was composed of 25 percent methanol.

Sorin Tira-Vuthy, director of the hospital, said of the people who have been hospitalized, 15 had died and the rest were now recovering.

“Right now, we are in control of the situation,” he said. “There are only about 10 people who are still at the hospital.”

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