Cambodia culls 6,000 ducks from Vietnam

Authorities have culled roughly 6,000 ducks that Vietnamese farmers had illegally herded across the border into a remote village in southwestern Cambodia, officials said Friday. The Vietnamese farmers from Kien Giang province smuggled the flocks into Cambodia's Kampot province to evade Vietnam's ongoing campaign to slaughter home-raised poultry to prevent the spread of bird flu, said So Vitou, head of animal health office in Kampot.

Cambodian health officials on Tuesday and Wednesday killed the birds, stuffed them into sacks and burned them in pits using kerosene, he said.

Vietnam has intensified its destruction of home-raised poultry since late last month, he said. "But several Vietnamese poultry farmers, fearing business losses because of the tightening of measures in Vietnam, quietly herded their stocks to our side to avoid elimination by Vietnamese officials," he said.

Cambodian officials discovered several herds of the ducks near a lake about three kilometers (1.8 miles) inside Cambodia, he said. He said that there were at least five Vietnamese owners of the flocks, but they fled back to Vietnam after their birds were seized. The H5N1 bird flu virus has ravaged poultry farms across Asia since 2003, and killed at least 71 people, most of them in Vietnam. Cambodia has had four human deaths so far.

Almost all human cases of the disease have been traced to direct contact with infected birds. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between people, sparking a pandemic. The Cambodian government and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization have recently launched a joint program to train and equip 1,500 village animal health workers to combat bird flu. The project is being conducted in six Cambodian provinces bordering Thailand and Vietnam. One of them is Kampot, which is 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, the capital, reports the AP. I.L.

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