The Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court have charged three people in relation to alcohol poisoning that left dozens of people sick and dead in Teuk Phos district’s Chieb commune.

Provincial court deputy prosecutor Long Sina told The Post on December 3 that the three were charged with “unintentional homicide” under Article 207 of the Criminal Code. If convicted, the trio face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to six million riel ($1,500).

Provincial deputy police chief Ea Bunthoeun told The Post on December 3 that from November 28 to December 2, authorities had either suspended or closed locations that produced and sold rice wine and had also seized many raw materials across the province.

Bunthoeun said locations that produced rice wine numbered 346 and places that sold and distributed rice wine and herbal wine numbered 543. The authorities had seized 1,090 litres of rice wine (blended), 418 jerrycans of rice wine and 80 plastic gallons of herbal wine.

“Some people produced it in accordance with technical standards, but some others produced it with high levels [of methanol] that lead to illness and death.

“We detained eight people for producing rice wine [without a permit], three of whom have been sent to court,” he said, adding that police were questioning five other people involved in the case.

Bunthoeun said the authorities will continue to take action against those who produce substandard rice wine without authorisation and licences.

Provincial Department of Health director Prak Vun said on December 3 that the number of people who died from alcohol poisoning had increased to 15. But he said the tally was compiled from different cases between November 26-28, and not from a single case of alcohol poisoning at a funeral that was first reported on November 28.

“After we treated them and brought the situation under control, our health officials went to conduct further investigation and found that there were also people who died from alcohol poisoning before November 28,” he said.

According to testing results released by the Ministry of Commerce’s General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Prevention on December 1, the rice wine that caused deaths in Teuk Phos district contained between 10.5 and 17.25 per cent of methanol, which was beyond legal limits.