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New rules for traditional healers

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A Kru Khmer healer looks through a medicine shelf at a pagoda last year in Phnom Penh. The Health Ministry is considering a sub-decree to regulate traditional medicine practice within the Kingdom.

New rules for traditional healers

The Ministry of Health is in the process of passing a sub-decree to regulate traditional medicine practitioners, with a six-page draft aiming to increase the quality, safety and effectiveness of the services.

The draft sub-decree, discussed by a committee last week and obtained by The Post yesterday, set out criteria and procedures to control traditional health practitioners.

Traditional practitioners will need, when the sub-decree is passed, to register with the Committee on Traditional Healers to obtain a licence. For this, they need either a bachelor’s degree in the subject or to have received training certified by the Ministry of Health.

Some universities in Cambodia offer bachelor’s degrees in the subject, though modern medicine is more popular.

Patients have the right to ask for the ingredients of medicine, and packaging listing ingredients must be accurate. Notably, the traditional healers will be required to tell their patients to go to modern health centres or hospitals for certain diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis or leprosy.

Heng Kuy, a traditional practitioner at Heng Kuy Khmer Traditional Medicine Shop in Phnom Penh, yesterday said he welcomed the sub-decree. “Some people don’t have skills . . . so they just provide treatment which could affect to the people’s health,” he said.

Practitioners will also be required to respect ethical standards and “have the capacity to mix traditional medicines”. The draft sub-decree sets out that they have to ensure their patients’ dignity is not affected and their patients’ confidentiality respected.

They will also have to be at least 22 years of age and have a clean criminal record. Several traditional healers have been accused of or arrested for raping their patients over the past few years.

But Kuy disagreed that practitioners should have no criminal record. “For the point of not allowing practitioners who used to be criminals – I don’t think it is necessary, because they need jobs to survive,” he said.

Yim Yann, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said that the National Assembly had recently adopted a law on professional modern medical practices, but as traditional healing didn’t fall under this, he said they had to draft another sub-decree.

“We will submit it to the Council of Ministers for comments,” he said. “As soon as it is out, it could be effective and practiced. But those who have old licences need to accommodate themselves with the new law and procedures, so it needs time,” he said.

According to the draft, practitioners have to register within a year after the passing of the sub-decree. Those who have “long-term experience”, however, could continue providing their services without registering. It remains unclear what constitutes “long-term”.

Additional regulations set out that traditional healers cannot give discounts to sell their services, unless it’s for charity, or advertise their products in a misleading way that is “attractive” in media such as leaflets, TV programmes or concerts.

Moreover, they are only allowed to use modern equipment when approved by the committee.

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