S WISS doctor Beat Richner believes that building a second pediatric hospital
"Kantha Bopha II" on the grounds of the Royal Palace is not "aid" - it is part
of the reparations the West owe Cambodia for the Indochinese
"Everything that has happened here as a consequence of the 1970s is
because of the West," Richner said.
He said even the diseases the Khmer
children suffer - diseases which fill to overflowing the 240-bed capacity of his
first hospital "Kantha Bopha I" - were caused by the mistakes of the
"What I am doing is just part of the reparations," he
Richner had a long hard slog to get the land for this second
hospital, after "either the Japanese government or the Cambodian government
through the Ministry of Health" blocked attempts to get land next to his first
When King Sihanouk heard of his plight, he offered a piece of
the Royal Palace grounds - ironically that occupied by the Khmer Rouge during
their brief flirt with legitimacy before the UN-sponsored elections.
hospitals - named after a daughter of the King who died of leukemia in 1952 -
would be a boon to Khmer children, he said.
The King, speaking after
laying the Foundation Stone in a ceremony on June 26, said he wanted to help the
many Cambodian children who were now suffering the effects of many years of
"We are very poorly equipped with health services in this country;
we do need a lot hospitals and staff," the King said.
Richner said that
Kantha Bopha II would have 164 beds, an outpatient clinic, a preevention center,
and an intensive care unit with 34 beds.
Kantha Bopha I had 240 beds,
though the hospital regularly slept 260 severely ill children.
Bopha II would cost up to $1.5 million to build; another $700,000 for
installation of x-rays and laboratories; and cost about $7,000 a day to
Kantha Bopha I cost $10,000 a day to run, and had 380 Khmer staff
and ten ex-pats.
Richner, a tireless worker for funds to keep his
hospitals functioning, said his Swiss Foundation had already approved the first
years budget for building Kantha Bopha II after the King's offer of land was
"We always want more money," he said.
Ambassador just gave us a cheque for $100,000 from the Thai King. If every state
of America did the same, we would have enough to build Kantha Bopha II and keep
both hospitals running for a year," he said.
Last year Kantha Bopha I
could not provide treatment to every sick child who arrived, he said.
have to select those children who are very sick to be treated first; and the
rest can only be treated as outpatients or as consultations." Richner said some
people were not satisfied when the hospital would not provide help to every
child. "We can not solve this problem as it happens every day. But, now, this is
very fortunate," he said of the new hospital.
Building will begin on
Kantha Bopha II probably after the rainy season.