PHNOM PENH —
Police have confirmed that two North Korean citizens have died following New Year celebrations in Phnom Penh, with officials and medics insisting that alcohol was responsible for the deaths.
Authorities have released few details about the deaths, and would not confirm reports of a further two deaths of North Koreans, who were admitted to the hospital and also died after drinking too much, according to doctors.
Boeng Kok II commune police chief Khan Khon Tit said that An Hyong Chan, 56, and Rimun Chol, 50, both doctors working at a private clinic in the commune in Tuol Kok district, died in the early hours of Saturday.
“They died from heart attacks because they drank too much alcohol,” said Khon Tit.
Khon Tit declined to give further details, but he reportedly told other media that the two doctors’ wives, also North Korean doctors, said they had administered injections to their husbands after they found them to have high temperatures and weak pulses.
While police appear to be treating the deaths as unsuspicious, it is unclear with what the women may have injected their husbands and whether that treatment played a role in their deaths.
Neighbors told VOA Khmer that about 10 Korean people attended a New Year party at a residence also operating as a health clinic in Tuol Kok district, where North Korean medics had been offering general medical services for the past year. Neighbors also said they saw police remove alcohol bottles from the property following the deaths.
Adding to the intrigue surrounding the case, doctors at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital said two other North Korean men have died at the hospital in recent days due to consuming too much alcohol. One of the men died shortly after both were admitted to the hospital’s emergency room on Saturday, while the other passed away on Sunday, the doctors said.
Khon Tit and another police official declined to confirm the two additional deaths.
Officials at the North Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.
According to the United Nations rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, the secretive communist state has begun sending its citizens overseas to work in order to earn foreign currency for the country. In a report to the U.N. General Assembly in October, the rapporteur named Cambodia as one country where North Koreans were being sent to work, apparently under constant surveillance by their own government.