12/06/2005, 00.00
CHINA

Farmer who blew the whistle on bird flu outbreak is arrested

Speaking out might have provoked local government vendetta. Media are asking questions. New viral outbreaks are reported in Vietnam.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The farmer who blew the whistle on a bird flu outbreak in Anhui in October has been detained by police. Four more outbreaks are reported in Vietnam along the border with the Chinese province of Guangxi.

China. On October 14, Mr Qiao reported that more than 200 geese had died of an unknown cause on a friend's farm in Liangying village, Tianchang. Fearing a local government cover-up, Mr Qiao called the Ministry of Agriculture directly.  On October 24 he was interrogated by the police, his wife said, and on November 25 he was detained on allegations of blackmail.

Police did not provide details of the charges laid against the farmer, but his lawyer was told that he is involved in two cases: one is a vaccine case which took place two years ago; the other concerns the bird flu outbreak in Tianchang city, in Anhui.

Local media have given the case high profile, wondering whether the arrest is the local authorities' way to get back at the farmer. Many voices have called for an urgent official investigation and answers.

Mr Qiao was one of 53 people nominated by state media in November for CCTV's economic figure of the year award, which recognises people who have made a great impact on society.

Vietnam. The authorities announced four new outbreaks in the northern province of Cao Bang, near the border with China, which killed 900 chickens Thousands of birds were culled.

Currently, 17 provinces out of 64 have been affected and about 2.39 million birds have been culled since October.

Thailand. The government has decided that the ban on popular cock fighting imposed out of fear of a possible bird flu contagion will be lifted on January 1. Cocks now require though a personal ID with photo and veterinary certificate.

Cock fighting is an important economic activity for many farmers, and the ban had provoked street protests. In November in Suphan Buri, west of Bangkok, one rally drew 120,000 people.

Myanmar. The ruling military junta has pledges to report every viral outbreak in the country, which some experts view as a information black whole. No H4N1 presence has yet been reported in the country.

Saudi Arabia.  Hunting migratory birds has been ban for the winter. (PB)

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