PHNOM PENH —
The Ministry of Health on Tuesday rejected claims from a Cambodian-American doctor who alleged he had been denied a medical license and barred from bringing medical supplies into the country after he criticized Cambodia’s health sector earlier this year.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the ministry said it had never received an application from the doctor, Quach Mengly.
“The ministry has never received any proposal from Quach Mengly for his private business and humanitarian work,” the letter said.
Mam Bunheang, Minister of Health, declined to comment further. “I don’t want to respond in the press. I just want him to respect the laws and not defame,” he said.
Mengly in January claimed that 90 percent of Cambodia’s doctors are inept and treat their patients badly. His comments prompted a doctor’s association to call for an apology and Prime Minister Hun Sen to defend the health sector.
Quach Mengly is a Cambodian-American doctor and businessman, at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October, 16, 2016. (Courtesy of Quach Mengly)
Mengly said that the application had been submitted by an assistant via an intermediary with connections in the Ministry of Health, as is customary in a country where corruption is endemic and personal connections carry significant weight.
Mengly said his health ministry connection had reported back that “high” officials at the ministry had declined the application.
“I don’t want to have more problems. I don’t accuse any specific groups. But I would ask for understanding since I do this work to help the government and Cambodian people. It is not related to politics,” he said.
Hun Sen personally responded to Mengly’s comments in January, saying, “The majority of our physicians are very ethical, professionally responsible and make sacrifices to save people’s lives.”
He did, however, acknowledge that there were deficiencies in the health sector where improvements could be made.
The comments came amid a public outcry over the state of health care facilities and treatment. A lack of confidence in local medical facilities leads many who can afford to travel to leave the country for treatment.