M UCH-NEEDED medical aid to the Khmer Rouge breakaway faction will not yet be given
by the Ministry of Health, but NGOs and United Nations agencies are poised to go
if they get permission.
The Secretary of state for Health, Dy Narong Rith, said it was too early for the
ministry to give any help until government negotiations with the Ieng Sary group
"Now we are not able to do anything. We cannot move before the Council of Ministers
asks us to do something," he said.
Te Keng Seang, cabinet director of the Minister of Health, said medicines were in
stock and could be dispatched as soon as the order was given by the Council of Ministers.
Medical assistance seems to a priority need in Phnom Malai, according to Médecins
Sans Frontières (MSF), which responded to a special request for help by the
On Aug 24 the "economics committee" of Malai sent a request for humanitarian
aid to the United Nations in Cambodia, which was passed on to MSF by a Thai journalist.
The request has been officially submitted to the UN in New York and a reply is being
awaited, said Benny Widyono, UN Special Representative in Cambodia.
Widyono said that, generally, the UN could not deal with a guerrilla faction which
was not reocognized internationally.
"The United Nations only recognizes the [Cambodian] government elected at the
elections," he said, adding that the UN had to practice what it preaches.
Georg Petersen, representative of UN agency the World Health Organization, said:
"We need a clearance from the government before being able to go. At this stage
the negotiations are not yet finished but we are prepared to give drugs and vaccines
[as soon as clearance is given]."
Meanwhile, an MSF team which visited Malai Sept 3 in response to the request for
help said that medical equipment and standards are low in the rebel area.
MSF mission representative Maurits Van Pelt said the team visited a hostial, dubbed
Hospital 105, in Malai.
"In this hospital there are five people in charge of giving prescriptions.
"One was trained during the Khmer Rouge rule between 1975 and 1979, another
one studied in China during four years," and the other three had no training,
"There is a very low capacity of diagnosis and a lack of proper medicine. No
vaccination campaigns have been done," Van Pelt said.
The main diagnosises made at the hospital were of malaria, fever and appendicitis.
There was not enough medicine to treat malaria or dengue fever, potentially fatal
At the hospital, where a total of about 30 basic surgical operations were conducted,
there was no running water or gas. Pregnant women give birth in the same wards where
patients with illnesses are kept.
Hospital staff are not paid and work only a few days a month.
Meanwhile, there was a big need for a stock of artificial limbs, with up to 1,000
amputees estimated to be in the area.
Van Pelt said there were many problems but "in a relatively small time and with
a relatively small amount of money, it is possible to improve a lot the health service
MSF hoped to be among the first NGOs to set up a permanent office in Malai.