The death of former deputy prime minister Sok An in Beijing on Wednesday has once again brought into question the quality of medical services in Cambodia and the use of overseas treatment by the country’s elite.
An died on Wednesday of a long-term illness in Beijing hospital at the age of 66, becoming the latest in a line of high-level officials and royalty to seek medical treatment abroad.
San Chey, executive director of Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Cambodia, said that while officials in neighboring countries did not need to seek treatment abroad, Cambodian medical services were seen as inferior, prompting the elite to engage in medical tourism.
“Lee Kuan Yew, as far as I know, died in his country. The king of Thailand died in a hospital in Thailand. But for the leaders and high-profile figures in Cambodia, including former King Norodom Sihanouk and now Sok An, they died in foreign countries,” he said.
“This point reflects clearly that the quality of the service or the confidence in Cambodia’s medical service is in trouble, meaning that there is a lack of confidence in curing serious disease,” he said.
Meas Ny, a social researcher, said the lack of confidence the Cambodian elite showed in its medical services was “the difference between medical treatment in our country and in Thailand.”
“Not only do our people not trust our heal service, but also senior officials don’t trust it,” he added.
Mam Bunheng, minister of health, and ministry spokesman Ly Sovann, could not be reached.
Other senior officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and Pen Sovann, a former prime minister, have also been known to seek treatment abroad.