Cambodia’s government is suppressing information connected with an outbreak of HIV infections in the country’s southeastern Kandal province and must reveal what it knows in order to prevent a further spread of the disease, an opposition party lawmaker said on Monday.
“If we don’t know the reasons for the outbreak, we can’t prevent it [from spreading],” Ke Sovannaroth, a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) member and chair of the National Assembly’s social affairs commission, told RFA’s Khmer Service on Feb. 29.
Speaking to RFA, Ke Sovannaroth said she had sent a letter on Feb. 25 to National Assembly president Heng Samrin, asking that he forward it to Minister of Health Mam Bunheng with a request that he provide detailed information on the outbreak’s cause.
The Ministry of Health is concealing what it knows about the outbreak, and this will have negative consequences for people’s health, she said.
“[They] can’t hide this information,” she said. “We must seek the truth of the matter to prevent [further infections].”
Though Heng Samrin has acknowledged receipt of the letter, she does not know if he has passed it on, and no further reply has been received, she said.
Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann did not respond to RFA requests for comment on Monday.
18 now infected
At least 18 people from Cambodia’s Kandal province are now confirmed to have contracted the HIV virus, causing health officials to launch an investigation to determine the extent and cause of the infection, according to government officials and villagers.
The cluster of cases in Muk Kampoul district’s Peam village marks the largest reported HIV infection in Cambodia since hundreds of people in Battambang’s Roka commune were infected by an unlicensed doctor using unsterilized equipment.
While government officials told RFA in earlier reports that they had yet to isolate the cause of the outbreak in Kandal, villagers said they believe that they too have been infected by a local doctor, Sok Thorn, at a nearby hospital or at his private practice in Muk Kampoul.
Sok Thorn has rejected the allegation that the hospital or his private practice had anything to do with the infections, saying his employees are trained to follow proper protocols.
Reported by Khe Sonorng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.