A Thai woman was arrested after she posted a video of herself eating bat soup to her Facebook page on Monday.
Phonchanok Srisunaklua, who identified herself as Khru (teacher) Jui in her video, is facing up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to 500,000 baht (approximately $13,800) for possession of protected wildlife carcasses and for crimes violating the Computer Crimes Act (2007) in Sakhon Nakhon province, Thailand.
Srisunaklua, who is also a teacher, posted the clip on her Facebook page Kin Saeb Nua Nua (Eating it Delicious and Hot), which has 392,000 followers.
In the video, Srisunaklua can be seen spreading the lesser Asiatic yellow bats’ wings before tearing it apart to consume it. She reportedly bought the bats at a market near the Laos border in northern Thailand, where bats that are infected with the closest relative to SARS-CoV-2 can also be found.
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The woman described the bat, which was boiled in a bowl of spicy soup, as “delicious.” She reportedly said that it was her first time consuming a bat, adding that its nails smelled like a rat and its skin was sticky. She told viewers that she was not trying to spread any coronavirus, as residents in her area also ate bats.
However, many viewers found the video disturbing and criticized her for risking an outbreak of new diseases.
“If you’re going to die, die alone. No one will blame you. But you’ll be damned if you start a pandemic,” one viewer reportedly wrote.
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On Monday, Srisunaklua wrote she was “still alive” under her post, and she added that the video was shot two days earlier.
After the clip went viral, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) warned the public not to eat bats due to health concerns. Dr. Chakkarat Pittayawong-anont, the director of the Epidemiology Division at the DDC, said humans can easily contract diseases from bats, adding that its feces alone can cause respiratory infections.
“I was shocked to see it in the clip now. Because the incident should not happen both in Thailand and around the world, it is very risky behavior, especially as bats have a lot of pathogens. There is no proof that the hot water temperature will actually kill the germs. Just touching the saliva, blood, and the skin is considered a risk,” veterinarian Pattaraphon Manee-on of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said:
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“Besides the concern about the disease in bats, this woman could be guilty of breaking the Preservation and Protection and Wildlife Act, B.E. 2019, because bats are protected animals,” he added.
On Tuesday, Kaset Sutecha, a lecturer at Kasetsart Universikhruty’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, reportedly said that there are more than 60 types of viruses that have been detected in bats that can spread to humans. He also noted that the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, spread to humans from bats.
Although Jui initially denied the charges made against her, she later posted a new video online to apologize to “society, doctors, journalists, colleagues, family and friends,” adding that she was “not thinking.”
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Srisunaklua also promised to never consume bats again.
Featured Image via Facebook