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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The forgotten man of UNTAC

The forgotten man of UNTAC


Lok Mapoly

A FORMER UNTAC employee, injured on the job and now brain

damaged and suicidal, has racked up more than $50,000 in

medical bills after the UN suddenly ceased payment to the

hospital where he is confined.

On Sept 4, 1993, interpreter Lok Mapoly suffered serious

head injuries in a car accident while on business in

Banlung district, Ratanakiri with UNTAC the foreign

peacekeeping operation that ran Cambodia's 1993


He was sent to Thailand for a brain operation and was

eventually placed in the Visal Sok clinic in Phnom Penh.

The clinic has a letter from the UN saying it would

guarantee payment, but in 1996 the money stop-ped,

apparently caught up in bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, Mapoly is now paralyzed down one side,

incontinent and can only say a few words.

The hospital is still caring for him and carrying the UN

debt  because its owner is too worried about Mapoly

to make him leave.

When the Post visited Mapoly in his hospital room he was

sitting on his bed playing with his own feces.

The clinic's owner, Dr Chea Sam An, said that Mapoly was

prone to fits of rage and he would destroy anything he


"Our big worry is about his life," Sam An said.

"He has tried to commit suicide several times but

our staff prevented him. Before he couldn't think but now

that he can, he's angry and bored about his life and he

wants to die. Some days he'll break his bed, mosquito

netting, TV, wall decorations."

In his room wallpaper had been torn down, he had even

smashed the plaster work in some places exposing the

bricks. The cover of his mattress was torn as were the

curtains in the room.

But there was no sign of the rage during the Post visit.

Instead there seemed to be genuine delight that he would

have his photo taken.

He carefully draped a sarong round his waist, smoothed it

down and tried to strike a pose for the photographer.

When the photos were taken he held up his one good hand

and said "two" meaning he wanted two more

photographs taken. He then returned to his previous


Sam An said at one stage Mapoly progressed to the extent

that he was able to count aloud. But then he tried to

commit suicide by stabbing and hanging himself. A nurse

is on 24-hour watch. His room is locked because he is

prone to destroy hospital property.

According to Sam An, Mapoly is an orphan who has had only

a single visit from a relative since his return from

Thailand in 1994.

"I just want to hear some news from the UN on what I

can do for him," Sam An says. "I worry about

how he will live if he is outside the clinic. Who will

take care and feed him?"

In the meantime, Mapoly has a $51,120 bill up till July

and Sam An has had no success in penetrating the UN for


This is despite the clinic having a letter from Johannes

Wortel, Director of Administration for UNTAC, dated

February 14, 1994, saying: "UNTAC agrees to the

terms for Mr Lok's future care as understood from the

attached form received by Mr. Paul Emerson, Senior

Administrative Officer, UNTAC, from the staff of the

Polyclinique. In summary, the daily cost is US $60 (sixty

US dollars) covering room, food, medical and nursing care

including therapy. It is understood that medication and

doctor fees would add between US $10 and US $20. Such

additional fees will be fully substantiated by copies of

doctors orders and pharmacy /dispensary delivery notes.

"Your account should be submitted according to your

billing procedure to the Chief Finance Officer, UNTAC HQ,

Cambodiana Hotel Business Center, Phnom Penh. Payment

will be made by cheque to the Polyclinique Visal


Sam An said that the method of payment was via the UNTAC

office at the Cambodiana until Nov 1994, when the

financial procedure was transferred to the UNDP's Phnom

Penh office.

A UNDP officer, who asked not be named, confirmed that

monthly payments had been made to the clinic for Mapoly's

care through to March 1996. He does not know why payments

ceased after that, explaining that his office served only

as a conduit for funds from UN headquarters in New York.

Yan Chamroeun, Finance Chief of the Visal Sok clinic,

said he dispatched medical reports on Mapoly every month

to the UNDP in Phnom Penh, which would then fax them to

New York. When payments stopped, Chamroeun informed the

UNDP, which faxed New York but received no answer.

Chamroen said that in Sept 1995, Mapoly collected his

belongings and moved to the reception area to wait for

the arrival of an UNTAC doctor who had promised to take

him to France for treatment.

Chamroen remembers the UNTAC doctor because he often

visited the clinic, but he cannot recall his name. When

the doctor did not appear, Mapoly flew into a rage and

broke the television set in the reception area.

Chamroen has gone to the office of Lakhan Mehrotra, the

UN Secretary General's representative, but the secretary

there told him that the office was not in charge of a

case like Mapoly's, but of only that of political


At the end of August, Sam An wrote a letter to a friend

in United States to contact the UN's New York

headquarters on his behalf, but he has yet to receive a


"I want to ask the UNCHR to help [Mapoly],"

said Sam An. "Or the UN to find a center to take

care of him."



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