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Calmette Hospital ensnared by politics

Calmette Hospital ensnared by politics

CALMETTE Hospital, perhaps the best known medical facility in Cambodia, has become

the latest institution to be accused of political bias.

Wounded demonstrators are so terrified of entering the hospital - fearing hospital

staff will turn them over to authorities - that human rights groups directed their

staff to bring wounded to other hospitals.

Cheng Sokly, the 21-year-old monk that was shot in the chest near the US Embassy,

was taken to a private clinic instead of Calmette because his friend had heard that

the hospital was pro-CPP.

"Calmette Hospital does not care about us because we are demonstrators, so I

had to bring him to private hospital," said Sokly's friend, who declined to

give his name. "Even though I have no money I can ask all my friends to help

me raise money to pay for medicine."

Another opposition supporter told the Post that no wounded demonstrators should be

brought to Calmette because of its political bias. "Calmette Hospital belongs

to a political party. They do not care about us," he said angrily.

Rights workers assisting the wounded have also been wary of Calmette, mostly because

of a misunderstanding over the whereabouts of Sokly.

Told by ambulance drivers and one diplomat that Sokly died on the way to the hospital,

rights workers were suspicious when Calmette administrators could not produce the

body.

Even though the Sokly rumor appeared quashed, one UN rights worker said there have

been more general problems with the hospital. "It's hard to get information

from them, they weren't forthcoming," he said. "Many people were coming

to the conclusion that Calmette couldn't be trusted."

The mistrust comes after at least one wounded demonstrator - a monk severely beaten

the night of Sept 7 - disappeared without a trace. There is also now a growing list

of missing demonstrators, but it unclear whether they have been apprehended or are

just in hiding.

Hospital staff vehemently denied any political bias at Calmette, which treated another

monk shot in the leg without incident. Calmette also treated victims of the July

1997 and the March 30, 1997 grenade attack against a Sam Rainsy-led demonstration.

"We are happy to help any patient and do not discriminate, but they accuse that

Calmette Hospital belongs to the yuon [Vietnamese]," one hospital employee said.

Hospital director Heng Tai Kry - an unelected CPP parliamentary candidate and Hun

Sen's personal doctor - said by telephone that Calmette is a public hospital committed

to treating patients from all walks of life.

"We will receive everybody - the King, rich men, normal people, prisoners...

And when they come in we never ask them what political party they are from, we just

ask their age, address and medical history," Tai Kry said.

He said the hospital previously belonged to the Vietnamese-supported State of Cambodia

government, but after 1990 the hospital became a public hospital funded by the French

government.

Tai Kry accused those spreading rumors that the hospital does not care for injured

demonstrators of being Khmer Rouge."Don't be scared, don't suspect and don't

believed what they say," he said. "Those people, they are the Pol Pot-ists.

They defame Khmers and try to separate Khmers so they hate each other. They are Khmer

Rouge."

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