RATANAKKIRI’S “jungle girl”, who reportedly spent 18 years living in the province’s wilds, has fled back to the forest, the man who claims he is her father said Thursday.
Rochom P’nhieng, who is believed to be 29, was discovered in the jungle in January 2007 and was taken in by a family who says she is a daughter who went missing in 1989 while herding buffalo. When she was first found, she could not speak a word of Khmer or Phnang, the mother-tongue of the ethnic minority group to which she belongs.
Sal Lou, Rochom P’nhieng’s father, said his daughter had fled their house in O’Yadav district on Tuesday evening.
“She took off her clothes and ran away from the house without saying a word to any of our family members,” he said.
Since being taken in by the family in 2007, her father said Rochom P’nhieng had learned a few words of Khmer and Phnang, and had begun dressing herself normally and helping out around the house.
“Even the day before she fled the house, she still helped the family pick vegetables for cooking,” Sal Lou said. “She must have gone back to the forest, because since she left the house, we have looked all over ... and we still cannot find her.”
Neighbours and local authorities had aided in the search, Sal Lou said, but to no avail.
A Vietnamese fortune teller, he said, told the family that a mountain spirit had stolen away their daughter. The mystic offered to secure Rochom P’nhieng’s return in exchange for an offering of one wild ox, one pig, one chicken and four jugs of wine.
Sal Lou said, however, that the search for his daughter would have to proceed by more prosaic means. “I have no money to buy those things for the fortune teller,” he said, and called on government officials and NGOs to come to his assistance.
O’Yadav district police Chief Ma Vicheat said Thursday that he had ordered his officers to look for the woman but had seen no sign of her thus far. “We are still looking,” he said.