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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Jungle girl’ returns to family in Vietnam

Rocham P’nhieng (second right), now known as Tak, stands with her Vietnamese family on Saturday in Ratanakkiri province before departing for Vietnam. Adhoc
Rocham P’nhieng (second right), now known as Tak, stands with her Vietnamese family on Saturday in Ratanakkiri province before departing for Vietnam. Adhoc

‘Jungle girl’ returns to family in Vietnam

The “jungle girl” discovered in a Ratanakkiri forest almost a decade ago has farewelled her Cambodian home and returned to her long-lost family in Vietnam.

Tak, formerly known as P’hnieng, made headlines when she was found in 2007 with no intelligible language and was claimed by a Cambodian family, who believed she was their child who went missing in 1989.

But five Vietnamese family members, including her father Pel, 70, came forward and claimed her as their own after they saw stories about her on social media.

The paperwork completed, her two families held a small dinner in O’Yadav district to celebrate the reunion and she was taken to Vietnam on Saturday by minibus.

“We used to take care of her, so we felt nostalgia and sympathy when she was leaving us,” said Rochom Kamphy, her adoptive brother for the past nine years.

As she spent many of her days confined to a cage-like hut, Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation executive director Dr Sotheara Chhim said he hoped Tak would receive the treatment she needed in her new home.

He said chaining a mentally ill person could worsen their condition, and locking them up was driven by a number of factors – the risk to themselves and others, lack of understanding about mental health, social stigma, financial struggles and a perception the person was inhabited by “bad spirits”.

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