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Father worries for 'jungle woman'

Rochom P’ngieng (centre) sits with help from her parents at a hospital in Ratanakkiri province, 610 kilometres northeast of Phnom Penh, on Thursday. AFP

Rochom P’ngieng (centre) sits with help from her parents at a hospital in Ratanakkiri province, 610 kilometres northeast of Phnom Penh, on Thursday. AFP

THE man who claims to be the father of Cambodia’s so-called “jungle woman” is appealing to public charities after his daughter was hospitalised – then quickly removed from care – for refusing to eat.

Sal Lou, who says he is the father of Rochom P’ngieng, said his daughter has not eaten for one month.

“She is thin now,” Sal Lou said by telephone from O’Yadav district in northeastern Ratanakkiri province. “I will be grateful to any charity if they want to take her for treatment.”

Cambodians have dubbed Rochom P’ngieng the “jungle woman” after she was caught in 2007, naked and dirty, after trying to steal food.

She could not utter a word of any intelligible language, instead making what Sal Lou called “animal noises”.

He said the woman was his long-lost daughter who had gone missing in 1989 as a 9-year-old.

Sal Lou said that he admitted his daughter to Ratanakkiri provincial hospital for treatment last week.

“She has refused to eat rice for about one month. She is skinny now ... she still cannot speak. She acts totally like a monkey. Last [Thursday] night, she took off her clothes and went to hide in the bathroom,” he said.

“Her condition looks worse than the time we brought her from the jungle. She always wants to take off her clothes and crawl back to the jungle.”

However, Sal Lou said he brought Rochom P’ngieng home from the hospital after only a few days because it was too difficult to prevent her from fleeing.

“We have to hold her hand all the time,” he said. “Otherwise, she would take her clothes off and run away.”

Sal Lou said doctors’ attempts to treat Rochom P’ngieng were futile.

“The doctors had injected her and gave her medicine, but she still will not eat and talk,” he said.

Sal Lou said that the family has tried its best to treat Rochom P’ngieng, seeking to heal her using traditional methods as well as modern medicine, but that her condition has not changed.

Hing Phan Sokunthea, director of Ratanakkiri’s provincial hospital, said Sal Lou defied medical advice by checking the woman out of hospital.

“We wanted to monitor her situation more, but we don’t know what to do because the father already took his daughter out of hospital,” he said.

Hing Phan Sokunthea said he believes that Rochom P’ngieng has a mental illness that requires hospital care.

“She is mentally ill, and it would take a long time for the treatment,” he said.

In September 2008, Rochom P’ngieng ran away from home because, Sal Lou said, she missed the jungle. But she returned home when she could not find food to eat, he said.

The jungles of Ratanakkiri are known to have hidden groups of hill tribes in the recent past. In November 2004, 34 people from four hill-tribe families emerged from the forest where they had fled in 1979 after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.




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