Like something out of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening,” where trees release neurotoxins to kill off the human race, trees in Cambodia have recently been blamed by the local police for a fainting spell of 136 students at a Kompong Cham, high school.
Yes, as bizarre as the explanation, the trees allegedly “attacked” by blocking the students’ access to oxygen. Police chief Heng Meng of the district where the school is located had this to say:
“According to the hospital’s analysis, the reason why the students fainted is [because of] the huge tree in the school compound and the farmland surrounding the school, which absorbed the oxygen.”
The students were standing at attention by the trees as a punishment for failing to show deference to the national flag. But Meng does not think the punishment could be blamed because one of the teachers also felt dizzy and had trouble breathing.
Meanwhile, Heng Phal Rith, school director of Bosknor high school in Chamkar Leu district, also cited the hospital’s report in blaming the incident on a lack of oxygen, adding that he “did not punish the students. It is just a rumour”.
A doctor from the local hospital, Iv Then, said that based on his examination, the lack of oxygen was due to an abundance of trees, which trapped the oxygen, adding that the first four or five students fainted because they were standing under the school’s large medicinal oil tree.
World Health Organization representative Dr Pieter van Maaren said that while he was not a biologist by trade, the explanation admittedly sounded a bit odd.
“Dating back to my own biology classes, green plants and trees actually produce oxygen rather than capture it, so I’m a bit puzzled by [the explanation],” he said, adding that if they had said that the trees were producing a certain smell that affected the students’ composure, it might be more plausible.