A So-called mentally ill man in Kampot province has been chained up by his parents after allegedly going on an arson spree that saw him set fire to a neighbour’s house and his own, police said yesterday.
Hoy Nem, Sdech Kong Kang Choeung commune police chief, said 26-year-old Chom Khna first set fire to the neighbour’s home early on Friday morning, leaving it seriously damaged.
“Khna said he was cold and then he burned the house to warm himself,” he said.
“After he burned the villager’s house … he burned two piles of hay nearby.”
While his father attempted to put out the flames with the help of other villagers, Khna returned to his family home and also set that alight.
Luckily, Nem said, the second fire was put out quickly, leaving only minimal damage. But attempts to arrest Khna were unsuccessful.
“The man’s father and villagers reported to us that he had burned the houses so we went down in order to intervene and we tried to stop the man from doing it again.
“But we could not arrest him at the time because he had a big stone with him and threw it at us,” he explained.
According to police and family members, Khna – who was shackled by his family – remained chained up yesterday by his hand and leg.
After 10 years working as a construction worker in Phnom Penh, Khna had returned to Kampot by foot in April.
Since his return, Nem said, Khna had displayed unusual behaviour.
“We suspected that while he worked in Phnom Penh he used drugs,” he added.
Khna’s brother-in-law, Min Chab, however, said the change had been more recent and was likely not brought on by his experiences in the capital.
“He changed to a person who did not act normally last week when he burned the houses,” he said.
He added that the family plans to send Khna for treatment at a hospital in Vietnam.
The Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO), which is currently raising funds to support efforts targeted at unchaining people like Khna, said that inappropriate and destructive behaviour are often a “contributing factor to desperate family members” chaining up their loved ones.
According to TPO, a lack of access to mental health services in rural communities and a lack of awareness about mental health issues also contribute to the problem.