Cambodian Man On Trial For Infecting More Than 100 With HIV

An unlicensed medical practitioner who infected more than 100 villagers in northwestern Cambodia with HIV by reusing unclean needles went on trial Tuesday, facing three charges including murder, his lawyer said.

Yem Chhrin faces up to life in prison if found guilty of murder, intentionally spreading HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – and practicing medicine without a license, his lawyer, Em Sovann, said by telephone from Battambang town, where a provincial court is holding the five-day trial.

Yem Chhrin was arrested last December and taken into protective custody, fearing revenge lynching by residents of Roka village, where at least 106 of the 800 people tested were found to be infected with HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. Local newspapers have put the number at 300.

The infected range in age from 3 to 82, and include Buddhist monks. At least 10 victims are reported to have died.

Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world, has inadequate health care facilities, especially in rural areas, where villagers often have no recourse but to rely on unlicensed medical practitioners who have trained themselves to treat minor ailments and to give injections.

Yem Chhrin, 53, was one such practitioner.