11 die after drinking toxic rice wine at funeral

A police officer claimed Sunday that eleven Cambodian peasants died after drinking rice wine considered to be toxic during a funeral, adding to the kingdom’s mounting recent death toll from dangerous homemade alcohol.

In the past two months, more than 30 people have died in three separate incidents across Cambodia from home-brewed rice wine containing methanol — a highly toxic liquid that can cause blindness if ingested.

Since Friday, 11 people who attended a funeral in coastal Kampot province — about 155 kilometres from the capital Phnom Penh — died while 10 more were hospitalised after imbibing homemade wine.

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“The victims suffered dizziness after drinking the liquor,” a police officer told AFP, adding that samples were collected for investigation.

Homemade rice wine is popular in rural Cambodia at wedding parties, village festivals and funerals as a cheap alternative to commercially produced drinks.

But there is little regulation of the informal brewers, and headlines regularly pop up of mass deaths from a single celebration or village event.

Last month, at least 15 rice wine brewers and sellers were arrested, while the health ministry has renewed calls for people to avoid drinking contaminated beverages.

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