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‘Jungle Girl’ Falls Ill After Return to Forest

Cambodia’s mysterious “jungle girl” is ill in Ratanakkiri provincial hospital, after contracting a fever from a return to the remote forests, officials said Friday.

Rochom Pngieng, who was found by villagers in the forest of the province in 2007, was thought to be the lost daughter of a Phnong villager or perhaps an escapee who had suffered abuse by her captor.

Those who claimed to be her family said she was a long-lost daughter who disappeared in the jungle 19 years earlier at age eight. She was unable to communicate, and her story has remained a mystery.

Her family now says she slipped back into the forest for several weeks, returning with a fever.

She was taken to the hospital Oct. 26 and is being treated for “serious mental problems,” said Sam Bamey, chief of the provincial hospital’s mental health unit.

Sal Lou, 45, who claims to be Rochom Pngieng’s father, said the woman had lost weight and had been gone for nearly a month.

“Now she has become thin of body, because she didn’t have food for one month,” he said. “When we fed her, she was always spreading out food from her mouth.”

Hing Phan Sakunthea, director of the provincial hospital, said it had been hard to treat the woman, because she refuses to be touched.

“We cannot get close to her because she doesn’t understand our language,” he said. “Now we’ve told her family to educate her and try giving her some food.”