Ratanakkiri province’s “jungle girl” will return to her Vietnamese home this weekend after a decade of being parted from her birth family thanks to a case of mistaken identity.
Tak, as her recently discovered family calls her, was discovered wandering in a forest in 2007 and was claimed by an ethnic Jarai family. The Lou family believed her to be their daughter P’nhieng, who disappeared as a young girl while herding buffalo in 1989.
But a shocking twist in an already bewildering story came late last month when a Vietnamese man named Pel, 70, turned up with official documents that appeared to prove “P’nhieng” was actually Tak, his daughter with a mental disability – as well as some distinguishing features – who went missing in 2006.
O’Yadav District Governor Mar Vichet said the documents for her repatriation to Vietnam were approved yesterday and expected the reunion to be a tearful one, saying Pel’s family cried when they first laid eyes on their long-lost daughter.
Rochom Khamphy, a commune police official and Tak’s surrogate brother for the past nine years, said his family had asked for $3,000 for the care they had provided, but gratefully accepted $1,500 to treat his mother’s blindness.
“We will miss her, because we have lived with her for years and we have emotional ties with each other,” Kamphy said.
He said both families had already held a traditional ethnic ceremony, sacrificing a 50-kilogram pig to the land spirits to guide her safe return home.