1 Crow to 10 Crows: the Cambodian Case of Coronavirus

UNICEF’s 2019 Voices of Youth. By Piton Riel.

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

Cambodian readers may be familiar with the tale of​ ក្អែក១ ជាក្អែក១០, translated to English “1 Crow to 10 Crows.” The two deceiving protagonists, Ah Khel and Ah Khoch, cheated the family of their wealth after the millionaire passed away. Consumed by greed, Ah Khel and Ah Khoch ended up killing each other in the forest as they both desired to keep the wealth to themselves. So, the cart filled with gold and other jewelry was left in the forest, but was later discovered by a man. He did not trust his wife to keep his discovery as a secret from the other villagers, so he tested her. He told her that he defecated in the forest and one crow flew out. With disbelief, she did not keep his secret but told the other villagers that two crows flew out from her husband during defecation. The words later spread, and the initial number of one crow quickly became 10. The morale of the story was to teach us to not spread speculations. They can cause harm to another person or even to you. It also teaches us to be wary of the things you hear from others. The title of the story “1 Crow to 10 Crows” became synonymous with spreading rumors, gossip or even unconfirmed news.

After reading the story, you might be asking, “Piton, what does it have anything to do with the virus?” Well, with one CONFIRMED case in Cambodia, there is a lot of fake news by so-called “online media outlets”, whose intentions are to drive views and clicks, making money from something as serious as an outbreak of a new virus. If you have been using social media for the past week, you may have seen articles making baseless claims that putting garlic near your nose will warn off the virus. There were also statuses made about cases found elsewhere in the capital and other provinces of Cambodia, which are UNCONFIRMED.


Translation: Doctor affirms that Garlic can be used to cure the Coronavirus

Xenophobia is also an issue amidst the outbreak. Discriminatory posts and comments can also be seen online putting blame on Chinese for the outbreak of the virus. The narrative was further perpetuated by the “theory” that China might have created the virus in the lab as part of its bioweapon research program, which is a baseless claim. Instead, we should focus on teaching people how to protect themselves from the virus.

So, how do we really protect ourselves? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these are some of the precautions you may take:

  • Frequently wash hands by using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, or soap and water
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with tissue paper after that discard of the tissue and wash your hands
  • Seek professional medical assistance if you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled meats
  • Avoid contact with waste or fluids in markets
  • Wear protective masks when travelling


(You may visit https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public for more information.)

We, as society, should stop spreading misinformation about a topic as serious as an outbreak of a virus. Instead, we should channel our resources and energy productively to inform people on how to protect themselves from the virus or else we might end up being fools just like the villagers in the story.

*These do not reflect the views of UNICEF Cambodia.

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