SO-CALLED “jungle girl” Rochom P’nhieng was transported to the Ratanakkiri provincial hospital on Monday to recover after being trapped at the bottom of a 10-metre-deep dugout toilet, local residents said.
Sal Lou, who has cared for Rochom P’nhieng for the past three years and says he is her father, said Monday that her health appeared to be improving after she received food, a shower and medical treatment.
“The health officials have allowed my daughter to stay in one room and are giving her medicine. My wife and I have stayed to look after her because we are afraid she will pull out her IV [drip],” Sal Lou said.
Rochom P’nhieng was discovered in the Ratanakkiri forest in January 2007. She has since lived with Sal Lou and his family, who say she is their daughter who went missing in 1989 while herding buffalo.
Now believed to be 29 years old, Rochom P’Nhieng had been living peacefully with the family for three and a half years before abruptly tearing off her clothes and escaping into the forest last month. After she had been missing for 10 days, neighbours discovered her stranded last Friday at the bottom of a local latrine.
Hing Phan Sakunthea, director of Ratanakkiri provincial hospital, said Monday that Rochom P’nhieng did not appear to be suffering any serious after-effects from the time she spent stranded in the toilet.
“I checked, and she has no big problems with her health,” Hing Phan Sakunthea said. “She just has a rash on her back and hands.”
Hing Phan Sakunthea added that a midwife at the hospital would be examining Rochom P’nhieng to see if she had been sexually assaulted prior to being trapped in the latrine, a scenario Sal Lou said he feared may have occurred.
“I suspect that my daughter was raped and then thrown into the bottom of the dugout toilet, but I am not 100 percent sure, so I asked the hospital officials to examine her,” Sal Lou said.
Chhay Thy, a provincial investigator for the local rights group Adhoc, said he had visited Rochom P’nhieng at the hospital on Monday. The rape suspcisions, he added, had arisen in part because of a neighbour who had previously been accused in a rape case.
“The doctors are looking after her and checking up on her health, but they have not yet determined whether she was raped or not,” Chhay Thy said.
Although she has never learned to fluently speak either Khmer or Phnang, the language of the ethnic minority group to which she belongs, Sal Lou says Rochom P’nhieng had been dressing herself normally and helping out around the house prior to absconding into the forest last month.