Cambodian "jungle girl" struggles to adapt - the official version

Ro Cham H'pnhieng.
Click for larger photo
Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:21 PM GMT29 by Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian woman who went missing in the jungle for 18 years before being found last week is struggling to adapt to life as a human and wants to return to the forest, police said on Friday.

"She prefers to crawl rather than walk like a human," said Mao Sun, a district police chief in the jungle-clad northeastern province of Rattanakiri where the girl's family live.

"Unfortunately, she keeps crying and wants to go back to the jungle," he said. "She is not used to living with humans. We had to clothe her. When she is thirsty or hungry she points at her mouth," he told Reuters by phone.

The girl, called Ro Cham H'pnhieng, went missing as an eight-year-old along with her cousin when they were sent to tend cows near the border with Vietnam. Villagers believed they had been eaten by wild animals until a girl was caught last week by a logging team as she was trying to steal some food they had left under a tree.

With blackened skin and hair stretching down to her legs, she was unrecognisable apart from a scar across her back that allowed her father to pick her out. After 18 years in the wilderness, police said she was able to say only three words: father, mother and stomach ache.

Villagers from the Phnong ethnic hilltribe minority believe the girl is still possessed by evil spirits of the forest. They have brought in Buddhist monks to bless her and set up a round-the-clock watch on the family hut.

In December 2004, four families in the same province, which was crisscrossed by the paths of the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War, emerged from 25 years in the jungle after fleeing the 1979 Vietnamese invasion that ousted the Khmer Rouge.

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Cambodian "jungle girl" struggles to adapt - the unofficial version and probably the truth

Real Wild Woman Gone Wild: Kidnapped by Nguoi Rung? Nguoi Rung Cambodian feral human

One drawing of how the Nguoi Rung reportedly shows itself to locals in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

A wild woman has been caught. A feral human being, that is. All the details have not been collected. After all, the focus of this story can't speak to her family of origin, yet. But this much is known, a real woman, missing for almost two decades, has been found in the rainforest of Southeast Asia.

I'm wondering, what if this woman was kidnapped fully 18 years ago (2006 - 1988 = 18 years) by the Nguoi Rung, the wild forest people of Vietnam? Was the little eight-year-old girl, who was herding buffalo in the remote jungle along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, snatched by the unknown hominids of the area?

At first thought to be a "Forest Person," a Nguoi Rung, this individual was treated carefully by the locals. One person said they had seen a "naked human being, who looked like a jungle person." And then she was captured. "She is like half-human and half-animal," said Mao San, police chief of Oyadao district in Rattanakiri province. "She's weird. She sleeps during the day and stays up at night."

Reuters is reporting:

A woman has been returned to her home in Vietnam's Central Highlands 18 years after she went missing as an eight-year old girl tending cows near the Cambodian border, her father told a newspaper on January 18, 2007.

Policeman Ksor Lu long believed that his daughter had been eaten by a wild animal until last Saturday when he was told that loggers had found "a forestman" at a village in Cambodia's province of Ratanakiri.

Lu arrived and "recognized his daughter from the first sighting" even though her body was blackened and she had long hair down to her legs and could not speak, according to the account in the Vietnam Rural Today newspaper.

Cambodian Half-Animal Woman Probably the real photograph of Ro Cham H'pnhieng
(taken with a telephone camera?)

Lu said his daughter, Ro Cham H'pnhieng (left) of the Jrai ethnic minority group, probably spent most of the time in the jungle in Cambodia since she went missing in 1989 .[It is noted as 1988 in most reports.]

The loggers told Lu that they caught her after realizing that someone had sneaked up and taken their lunch.

Lu said that at first it was difficult bringing her back to normal life because she resisted showering, wearing clothes or using chopsticks, fending him off and shouting and crying. Four days later she started cooperating, Lu said.

"It is not easy indeed but life is waiting ahead for her."

As I speculated in my first blog about this case on January 18th, when the news broke of a "feral woman" being found (or captured in some accounts), there has got to be a more involved story here. I wondered, could, perhaps, this little girl have been kidnapped by a Nguoi Rung ("Forest Person") - the unknown hominids who are reported from along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border?

Boing Boing buddy David Pescovitz posted on the story earlier, and acknowledged our interest over here. The story is getting weirder, but then some of us knew it would if we all weren't afraid to look beyond the mainstream headlines. Yet another sketch of Nguoi Rung

Now comes word from The Guardian for January 20, 2007, that the "search [is] on for [a] 'feral man' as mystery deepens over woman lost in jungle." I am not surprised.

Guardian reporter Ian MacKinnon writes, in part:

When they found her last week, her father said, she was "bare-bones skinny" and shaking, scuttling like a monkey along the ground to snatch up grains of rice, her eyes "red like tigers' eyes". So when the first pictures of Rochom P'ngieng, the woman supposedly lost in the jungle for 18 years, emerged yesterday showing a calm and apparently healthy young woman rather than an emaciated, feral beast, the mystery surrounding her remarkable story deepened.

Human rights groups fear the woman is traumatized and could have been the victim of abuse. They say the flock of curious onlookers isn't helping. Well they would say that wouldn't they. This time they might be right. Is it not likely that a Cambodian man abducted her as a child and kept her as his plaything. Yet there is no money in that so they will try to find a white Anglo male, arrest him, pay money to the family, pay money to the policeman and pay money to the judge. The rich white Anglo male will spend twenty years in prison. The Cambodian man who did it will probably receive money for cooperation. Yet another photo

Sal Lou, 45, a policeman from a remote village on the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, told a local newspaper on Thursday that his daughter, who disappeared, aged eight, in 1988 while tending a buffalo herd, had mysteriously re-emerged from the Cambodian jungle. She was naked and unable to speak any intelligible language but unquestionably, he insisted, she was his lost daughter Rochom P'ngieng.

Yesterday, however, as further intriguing reports emerged of a mysterious naked man who had been spotted with the woman but ran off when challenged, the family began to close ranks. They have withdrawn permission to take DNA samples to confirm the woman's identity, and police have thrown a cordon around their isolated home, in an effort to keep at bay curious neighbors and the world's media.

Other details of various visitors and the global news circus are given in the article, but then it is surprisingly revealed that this woman disappeared along with her younger sister in 1988.

There is no clue to the fate of the second daughter, Chan Boeung, who was six when she disappeared on the same day. Their father said he had believed them both to have been devoured by wild animals in the forest and had long since given them up for dead.

  • cryptomundo
  • Nguoi Rung, Vietnamese Forest People, Wildman: mythical or missing ape
  • Taipei times.
  • Jungle girl back in the forest.
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