CAMBODIA

Cambodia’s ‘jungle woman’ returned to Vietnamese father after going missing for 18 years

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 August, 2016, 4:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 August, 2016, 4:13pm

A “jungle woman” who was discovered scavenging naked by a farmer in Cambodia nine years ago, was reunited with her father in Vietnam on Saturday, her adoptive family said.

In 2007, the farmer found the woman caked in dirt, hunched over like a monkey and looking on the ground for pieces of dried rice.

She was taken in by a Cambodian family who identified her as Rochom P’ngieng, a girl who went missing in 1989 while herding water buffalo in a northeastern province that borders Vietnam and is home to some of Cambodia’s wildest jungle. It was believed she had spent some 18 years living in the jungle.

But nearly a decade later, a 70-year-old Vietnamese man named Peo claimed to be her real father, saying his daughter went missing in 2006 – just a year before she was found – and has a history of mental health issues.

In a letter given to her Cambodian adopted family last month, Peo said he recognised his daughter, named Tak, after seeing recent photos on Facebook.

Rochom Khamphy, a member of her adoptive Cambodian family, said she was returned to the Vietnamese man Saturday morning after authorities approved his paternity claim.

“We gave her back to his Vietnamese father. Both my family and Vietnamese relatives cried while watching their reunion,” he said, adding that the family believed Peo to be her biological father.

“We are going to miss her,” Rochom Khamphy said, adding that the woman left his family with no belongings, only “the clothes she was wearing”.

The Vietnamese father has agreed to pay the adoptive family US$1,500 for taking care of his daughter.