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Jungle girl working at reintegration

Jungle girl working at reintegration

CAMBODIA’s “jungle girl” is receiving life skills training from an NGO in her native Ratanakkiri province as she works to reintegrate into society, her purported father said yesterday.

Local residents say Rochom P’nhieng, believed to be 30 years old, spent 18 years living in the wilds of Ratanakkiri after going missing in 1989 while herding buffalo. After being discovered in the jungle in January of 2007, she was taken in by the family of Sal Lou, from O’Yadav district, who claimed her as his long-lost daughter.

Although Rochom P’nhieng was said to have made progress in the years following her return to civilisation, helping out around the house and learning a few words of Khmer and Phnong, a local language, she fled her home briefly in May in an attempt to return to the jungle. She was later discovered stranded in a 10-metre dugout toilet, and Sal Lou said her efforts at reintegration had been largely stunted since then.

“I hope that she can be reintegrated in our community and learn the language,” Sal Lou said. “I have no time to teach her, so I am happy she is working with an NGO”.

Hector Rifa, project director for the Spanish mental health organisation Psicologos Sin Fronteras, said in an email yesterday that Rochom P’nhieng was just one of a group of around 100 villagers to whom PSF has been providing psychological services.

“Everybody needs to learn and needs to change behaviours to adapt better to a new social environment, and all according to their capacities,” Rifa said.

Though she has yet to learn to communicate extensively via language, Rochom P’nhieng was being taught health habits and social skills to ease her interactions with others, Rifa said.

“After her training, I hope that P’nhieng will be able to clean the house, wash clothes, cook and psychoanalyse,” Sal Lou said.

“It will help my family members a lot, because then we will have time to work and earn money without having to watch her all the time to make sure that she doesn’t escape into the forest again.”

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