Impoverished former Khmer Rouge fighters in north-western Cambodia have reported a spike in malaria infections, raising fears of a new epidemic along the Thai border, police said Tuesday.
A senior police officer in Samlot who declined to be named said by telephone that the Thai border area had recorded 92 new cases of the mosquito-borne disease last month and 93 this month, dpa reported.
"The cause is heavy rain, and we are trying to educate people to go to the hospital as soon as they detect fever and not believe the cause is just a bad spirit or ghost," he said.
Samlot's rebel fighters held out against the outside world until the late 1990s, and most of its almost 14,000-strong population now eke out a living as subsistence farmers.
In October, a World Health Organization report warned that drug-resistant strains of the disease were increasingly being detected along the Thai-Cambodia border.
Experts blamed such infections on inappropriate use of anti-malarial drugs and other factors, including a postwar population boom. Children are particularly vulnerable to malaria.
Cambodia reported around 60,000 cases of the endemic disease last year with 241 deaths.
Police said no malaria fatalities have been reported in Samlot so far but they feared it was only a matter of time if the number of new infections continued to rise with the peak of the monsoon season still months away.