Even before dawn, a few hundred people have gathered to sit in line, reminiscent of the queues of waiting patients which snakes outside the grounds of the Kantha Bopha Hospital during pandemics.
They have travelled from different cities and provinces to get a chance to be healed by Ray Rong, a resident of Prey Veng’s Svay Chrum village. Rong is known far and wide as one of the best healers in the area, and the blessing water and herbal medicines he gives to patients are claimed to defeat a hundred different kinds of diseases. Many other traditional healers proffer the same goods, but there’s one important difference: Rong is only three years old.
Still too young to speak clearly, Ray Rong is the third child of five to Tep Saray and Un Saroeurn, a pair of impoverished farmers.
In the last couple of months, the boy has risen to fame on the back of claims that he has healed hundreds of people. Every day, at least two hundred patients, including some from across the border of nearby Vietnam, wait outside his house to get blessed water and medicine. Some of Rong’s patients travel hundreds of kilometres and spend several nights sleeping near the toddler’s house in the hopes of getting a chance to meet him.
The 60-year-old Yay Hom was one of Ray Rong’s patients, who brought incense, candles, cake and pure drinking water as an offering to the child healer.
“I have to wait for my turn to be called in and see the healer,” she says. “I have suffered from diabetes for 10 years. My blood sugar level was never less than 410 mg/dL.” (Healthy blood sugar levels range from 70-180 milligrams per decilitre.) “I took medication and saw other doctors, but I never felt better. After the holy child gave me magic water to drink and some fig fruits, my blood sugar level dropped to 110 mg/dL.”
Srey Sokhon, another patient from Phnom Penh, told 7Days that she rented a nearby house for four nights while waiting for her turn to be called in.
“I suffered from a condition that made my whole body go numb,” she says. “I visited many famous doctors in the cities, but it never got better. After I asted the holy water, I felt much better and I was able to eat properly.”
Srey Sokhon says she hopes the water and a prescription of herbal medicine from Ray Rong will help cure her disease completely.
Not all the patients have been as lucky as these two, however. Recently the healer himself became ill. Prom Hay, had already been waiting for five days when 7Days visited Svay Chrum, still had not been seen by Rong.
“I’ve waited and waited, but I still cannot get any medicine,” the woman complains. “I was told that the doctor is ill, so he cannot prescribe herbal medicine; he can only give his magic water to patients.”
However, the woman was determined to continue her wait until the doctor recovered.
Chim Yun and Prach Youk are Ray Rong’s elderly relatives. They say that the child healer’s fame has not made their family happy, because people claiming to be from TV stations and newspapers have tried to extort them.
“People believe that the child can cure their disease,” they say. “The water and medicine work for them. The young doctor helps his patients..”
Rong’s grandfather, Yorm Yun, recalls that a few months ago that his eldest daughter suffered so much pain as a result of an illness that she almost committed suicide. Rong, who could onlyh speak a few words, said he would find medicine for his aunt, running out of the house and pointing his finger at a strange wild plant. The family then cut the plant and dried it under the sun before boiling it in water.
His aunt suddenly felt better after drinking the concoction.
Yorm Yun also says that Rong’s father was an alcoholic until the healer offered him some water. Since then, the man has given up drinking.
News of these two feats travelled quickly, and people started flocking to the child’s house, asking for magic water and herbal medicine.
“It has been two months since my grandson became a well-known healer,” says Yum. “There are at least three thousand people who have come to see him. All of them claim that they recovered from their illnesses.”
However, the grandfather also expressed his deep concern about his grandson’s health and safety given his young age and the amount of work involved in his services.
“My family is worried about our little Ray Rong. We don’t want him to see patients. Many patients are coming and the child doesn’t have time to rest. He’s been ill. We have decided to tell him to stop giving prescriptions, and now patients only get holy water touched by the holy doctor.”