THE traditional doctors' association in Cambodia has requested the Ministry of Health
crack down on the practice of individuals advertising "miracle" AIDS cures
in the country's press.
The Association of Traditional Cambodian Medicine, which represents many of the country's
kru Khmer doctors, said it had written to the ministry in early June asking that
action be taken against misleading adverts by four kru Khmer in Phnom Penh claiming
they could cure AIDS, lung cancer and liver disease.
"These adverts have misled the public and affect the honor and standing of all
kru Khmer," said the association's director, Muon Vanna. "They advertise
without any fear of the Ministry of Health."
One of the provisions of the new AIDS law, which was approved last month by the National
Assembly and is currently with the Senate, is the banning of false advertising.
Dr Heang Ponlei, who is the director of the Department of Traditional Medicine at
the MoH, forwarded the letter to Minister Hong Sun Huot and the Ministry of Information,
informing them of the "exaggerated advertisements".
"My department has asked some kru Khmer to stop these adverts, but they still
defy the order," said Ponlei. "Our job is to examine all health advertisements
prior to publication."
However one offender, 39-year-old Tok Dara, said there was nothing wrong with his
radio and newsprint adverts. When the Post pointed out the boast that 90 percent
of sufferers could be cured, Dara admitted he was unable to actually cure AIDS with
his traditional medicines, merely make the patient live longer.
He added that he was not worried about the complaints, as he felt the numerous objections
he had received stemmed purely from jealousy. He maintained he was extremely ill
with AIDS in 1994 and concocted his own cure.
"I rose from death," he said. "In 1994 my weight was 36 kilograms,
and now I am 64 kilograms. I think we should be allowed to advertise and let the
people test our invented medicines."
Dara said his method improved patients' health by 90 percent, which he insisted was
far better than modern medicines with their serious side effects.
But when the Post asked to know what ingredients he used, he refused to identify
them out of fear that other kru Khmer would steal his formula. All he would say was
that it contained herbs and tree roots that are crushed and mixed with boiling water.
The vice-chair of the National Assembly's health commission, Nuth Sokhom, said advertising
such cures would soon be illegal.
"That is because there is no scientific proof regarding these AIDS treatments
and it would simply confuse our people," he said.
Sokhom said he was concerned with the growing number of kru Khmer who claimed they
could cure AIDS. He recently visited Phnom Vour in Kampot to see a traditional doctor
who claimed he could cure AIDS. He saw dozens of people waiting for treatment, and
when he asked the doctor about his treatment, he was told the 'cure' had come to
him in a dream.
"The government welcomes help from kru Khmer for treatment of hospitalized HIV
patients," he said, "but they should not give any assurances that they
are able to get rid of the disease."
The new AIDS law will go back to the National Assembly once the Senate has discussed
it, then the King will sign it into law. Under the law transgressors will be liable
for up to one year in prison, and a 1 million riel fine.