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Bugging out

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Bugging out | Thaiger

Public Health officials in Saraphi District, Chiang Mai Province, issued a public warning for villagers to stop eating malaeng laay (“striped bugs”, scientific classification not provided), after a middle-aged man died after downing three of the insects during a whiskey drinking session. News of the death was reported by Taan Jongkham, headman of Tambon Chompoo Mu 9, on August 25. Gaen Thep-phanom, 47, and two friends were drinking whiskey at a local shop in the early evening of August 24 when a woman arrived and gave them a bag of the roasted insects, Taan said. Villagers commonly pick the large bugs and roast them in a pan before eating them, often as an accompaniment to whiskey, he explained. “They are edible – I know because I have eaten them myself,” said the village headman. After a few hours, Gaen had eaten three of the insects, savoring the bitter taste. His drinking buddies, less impressed with the flavor, consumed one apiece. After two or three hours, the two other men left for home, but K. Gaen stayed on, drinking on his own until about midnight. That’s when he started to get stomach pains – bad ones. The shop owner heard his agonized groans and cries for help coming from the shop’s bathroom. Entering, he found K. Gaen ashen-faced, his innards in spasm. The shop owner and some other villagers rushed K. Gaen to nearby Banthi Hospital, but he was declared dead on arrival by doctors; his heart had stopped beating en route. An autopsy was performed on the his body and samples of the roasted insects were sent to the lab at the provincial medical science center for analysis. Village Headman Taan said that the other two men who had eaten one bug each also reported suffering from headache, stomach ache, intestinal spasm and vomiting. Wira Dechakij, an official at the Saraphi District Public Health Office, said his agency was working with local village heads to educate people about the dangers of snacking on poisonous insects. He said that a survey of local residents indicated that people knew they were dangerous to eat, but that sometimes people under the influence of alcohol felt emboldened and gave in to the temptation to eat the bugs. Malaeng laay are commonly found living among the many agati, or ton khae, trees growing in the area, he added.

 

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