Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nauru refugee decries Kingdom's medical facilities



Nauru refugee decries Kingdom's medical facilities

Rohingya refugee Mohammed Rashid – photographed at a petrol station on Monivong Boulevard earlier this week – wants to seek medical treatment overseas before returning to Cambodia.
Rohingya refugee Mohammed Rashid – photographed at a petrol station on Monivong Boulevard earlier this week – wants to seek medical treatment overseas before returning to Cambodia. Bun Sengkong

Nauru refugee decries Kingdom's medical facilities

After fleeing religious persecution in Myanmar, Mohammed Rashid found himself on a circuitous route to Phnom Penh.

The Rohingya Muslim first travelled to Malaysia before boarding a boat to Australia. He was then sent to the island detention centre on Nauru for almost two years before finally agreeing to resettle in Cambodia under a controversial $A55 million deal.

Now, after spending four months in the Kingdom, Rashid says he is riddled with pain. During an interview with the Post, the bend of his elbow still sporting a small bandage where he had been freshly pricked with needles, he points to the source of his pain just below the sternum.

Intermittently wincing, Rashid said that he now wishes to seek further medical treatment abroad and then return to Cambodia if he is well – most of all, he wants to speak to doctors in his native Rohingya tongue.

Rashid said he became a refugee because Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist population fostered discrimination against his Muslim beliefs. “In Myanmar, I was persecuted and harassed,” Rashid said.

“The police hit me and called me a Muslim – twice this happened.”

Rashid then embarked on a perilous journey to Australia. “It’s better for me to die in a boat, and the life in Australia is good,” he said.

On Nauru, Rashid said he suffered from similar symptoms to those he’s experiencing now and shed 15 kilograms. “Before I got to Nauru, I had three interviews already for refugee status . . . when I went to the refugee camp in Nauru, I was not let into Australia.”

“It is very bad also in Nauru.”

There, he was told he could “not go to any [other] country, only Cambodia”.

Rashid – who is one of only two refugees remaining in Cambodia under the scheme – has been in and out of hospital for the past few weeks.

At the Soviet-Khmer Friendship Hospital, where he was admitted, some patients are allocated beds, while others lie on thin mats in open corridors, with IV drips flowing into their veins or blood pooling into plastic medical bags on the floor beside them.

Rashid’s doctors said his symptoms – vomiting, headaches, pain below the chest – were consistent with gastritis, but they added that mental stress could also upset the function of intestines, causing stomach pain.

They said his condition was not serious but that he had suffered the same illness before.

Rashid said he could not understand the doctors, who spoke in Khmer.

He also feared for his future. Under the Australian and Cambodian governments’ deal, he will be supported by the IOM for one year, but he does not know how he will cope without their ongoing support.

“I have this problem, what can I do here?” he said. “Nobody [will] help me.”

Rashid wants to go to Sweden for treatment – he heard the Nordic nation had good specialists and many Rohingya people.

But Tan Sovichea, refugee director at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said Cambodian doctors “have enough competence and there are other foreign doctors” to treat Rashid locally.

Pressed on whether he considered the much-criticised scheme a success, he said: “For Cambodia, we have not failed yet. We will continue to implement [the MoU] as long as there are volunteers from Nauru.”

There have been none since Rashid in November.

Dr Mengly Quach, a US-trained doctor and educator, said Rashid’s desire to seek medical help overseas could be valid, considering many in the Kingdom sought specialists abroad if they could afford it.

“The majority go to Vietnam because it is close, but if they can afford it, they go to Thailand, and the rich, they go to Singapore,” Quach said.

While he praised the Ministry of Health’s recent move to implement checks and balances to reprimand rogue doctors, Cambodia still lacked critical specialists, he said.

The Australian Department of Immigration last week stated Rashid had been offered housing and counselling by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the group tasked with his resettlement, but said he had declined.

Rashid said he wanted to stay at the IOM office and declined their offer to help him open a Cambodian business because of his illness, adding he found it hard to communicate with the counsellor who spoke English and Malay, not Rohingya.

Australia’s Immigration Department and the IOM declined to comment further for this story.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from