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Ciptapangan Visitor
Thailand to Jail Recalcitrant Farmers Over Bird Flu (Update1)
posted by admin on 02/08/06

The H5N1 virus was found in poultry in Nakhon Phanom province.

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Thailand vowed to jail farmers failing to promptly report poultry deaths, and closed land borders to fowl trade to stem outbreaks of bird flu that killed a 17-year-old man last week.

Poultry owners who fail to notify authorities of mortalities within 12 hours face up to two months in jail and fines of as much as 4,000 baht ($106), Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said in a statement yesterday. Provinces that border Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar were ordered to ban poultry from those countries. Those violating the ban face up to two years in jail and as much as 4,000 baht fine, the ministry said.

``The new rules are very harsh and will help resolve this problem,'' Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters in Bangkok today. ``The main problem now is that poultry owners are reluctant to report deaths for fear that officials will order the culling of all of their poultry.''

Thailand, the world's fourth-largest poultry supplier, is trying to control its first outbreak of the H5N1 avian influenza virus this year, which threatens to reduce exports and deter tourists. The disease in birds risks infecting people and creates chances for the virus to mutate into a pandemic form that may kill millions of people.

The H5N1 virus is known to have killed 134 people, most of them through contact with birds, and might kill millions more should it becomes contagious, researchers have said.

Russia, which has reported more than 60 H5N1 outbreaks in poultry this year, eradicated the virus from all regions except one in Siberia and no new infections have been recorded since July 5, the country's state-run RIA Novosti news service reported.

Western Siberia

West Siberia's Tomsk Region is the only part of the country where the virus hasn't yet been eradicated, RIA reported yesterday, citing a statement from the Agriculture Ministry.

Since 2004, Thailand has reported 23 cases, of which 15 were fatal. The most recent fatality was confirmed July 26 in a 17-year-old youth from the northern Thai province of Phichit.

The H5N1 virus was found in poultry in Nakhon Phanom province, 740 kilometers (460 miles) northeastern of Bangkok, the Department of Livestock said on its Web site yesterday. That's the second outbreak reported in less than a week. The government on July 24 said the virus killed fowl in Phichit province.

Detection of the H5N1 virus is being complicated by the current rainy season during which poultry deaths are more common because of Newcastle disease and avian cholera. Those diseases don't represent serious human health risks.

`Riskiest Period'

``This is the riskiest period of the year for bird flu virus to spread because scattered rain nationwide weaken poultry and makes them easier to be infected by the virus,'' Yukol Limlamthong, director general of Livestock Department, told state-run Radio Thailand today.

The livestock department culled 6,350 egg-breeding chickens in the Muang district of Nakhon Phanom to control the infections, it said in a statement. Nakhon Phanom borders Laos, which last week reported an H5N1 outbreak on a commercial farm near the Laotian capital, Vientiane.

``The ban on imports will make us better able to control the virus's spread after we ordered the slaughter of all poultry in the infected area,'' Thaksin said.

Thailand raised 260 million chickens last year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Outbreaks of H5N1 in 2004 prompted the Thai government to cull about 29 million fowl, hurting an industry that accounts for about 0.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Economic Slowdown

Thailand faces its slowest GDP growth in five years as a lingering political deadlock crimps investment and consumer spending. Thaksin dissolved parliament in February to hold an April election that was later annulled by a court. Government projects such as building roads and subways worth as much as 1.7 trillion baht over the next five years to boost the economy are on hold.

The government is counting on tourism, which contributes about 7.5 percent of GDP, to help boost the economy. Thailand usually attracts the highest number of overseas tourists between November and February, when European, American and Japanese holidaymakers travel to warmer climates.

To contact the reporter for this story:
Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at at anguyen@bloomberg.net;

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