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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ratanakkiri women possessed by jungle spirits, says father

Ratanakkiri women possessed by jungle spirits, says father


Concerned by the slow pace of his daughter's readjustment to society, the father

of Rochom P'nhieng said he plans to enlist the help of a Laotian sorcerer to facilitate

his daughter's recovery.

Rochom P'nhieng, adjusting to the media glare.

Rochom P'nhieng captured the attention of the world last month when she presumably

returned to settled pasturalist society after 18 years of living alone in the Ratanakkiri


According to her father, the 27-year-old Phnong woman's state has much improved since

returning from the jungle three weeks ago. Although she still cannot dress herself,

her health and appetite have returned and she is no longer frightened by the crowds

of curiousity-seekers that gather at the family home.

But what most concerns her father, and what has led him to seek the advice of the

Laotian wizard, is his daughter's continued inability to speak.

In accordance to his tribe's beliefs, he believes his daughter is possessed by a

"jungle spirit." that has stolen her ability to speak.

Not everyone, however, believes the family's story.

O'Yadao district police chief Mao Sann has been investigating the family's claims

and said he has found little evidence to support the family's version of events.

Hector Rifa, the Psychology Without Borders specialist who began an evaluation on

the girls days after she was re-discovered, is returning to the village from Phnom

Penh for further testing on February 9. He said there have been no new findings,

and his agency is respecting the family's wish for privacy.

Hing Phan Sakunthea, director of the Ratanakkiri provincial referral hospital, also

questioned the authenticity of the women's claims.

"I have not visited her yet, so I am not certain about her condition,"

Sakunthea said. "But I wonder how she managed to avoid disease for all those


Sakunthea has offered free medical treatment to the family.



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