THE saga of Cambodia’s “jungle girl” took another dramatic turn Friday when the Ratanakkiri runaway was reportedly discovered at the bottom of a 10-metre-deep dugout toilet.
Sal Lou, who says he is the father of “jungle girl” Rochom P’nhieng, said his daughter had been discovered on Friday evening by a young neighbour who went to use the outdoor toilet and heard a cry for help from within. Sal Lou and other villagers were summoned to the scene, where they shone torches into the hole and discovered Rochom P’nhieng at the bottom.
“The villagers pulled my daughter out of the toilet, and we cleaned her up, but now she looks pale and weak,” Sal Lou said.
Rochom P’nhieng, believed to be 29 years old, was discovered in the wilds of Ratanakkiri province in January 2007 and taken in by a family who say she is a daughter who went missing in 1989 while herding buffalo.
Family members said she had since lived peacefully with them until last month, when she took off her clothes and fled back into the jungle.
Since being rescued from the toilet, Sal Lou said his daughter appeared to be in poor health.
“She looks pale and has no strength. She has been sleeping all the time in a hammock under the house,” Sal Lou said. A local doctor, he added, had attempted to give Rochom P’nhieng an IV drip to help replenish her strength, but she tore it out and refused other medicine and injections.
Hing Phan Sakunthea, director of the Ratanakkiri provincial referral hospital, said that although Rochom P’nhieng’s time in the toilet could result in minor skin irritation, it is unlikely to affect her health in the long term.
“She looked pale at first, but she will be fine in a few days,” he said. “She was stuck in that deep toilet without enough oxygen, so that’s why she looked so pale.”
Sal Lou said Sunday that he plans to stay home with Rochom P’Nhieng from now on in order to prevent her from escaping again.
“I don’t know what I can do to stop her from leaving,” he said.
But Chhay Thy, a provincial investigator for the local rights group Adhoc, said Rochom P’nhieng’s family may be incapable of caring for someone with her mental and emotional problems.
“She has fled the house three times already since she came back from the forest,” he said.