A Cambodian doctor who openly criticized the government health service has claimed he has been denied a license to practice and barred from bringing medical supplies into the country.
Quach Mengly, a Cambodian-American doctor and businessman, in January last year said that nine in 10 doctors in the country were sub-par and treated their patients badly.
Mengly’s comments prompted a government-affiliated doctors’ association to demand an apology and retraction.
Now, Mengly says, he has been declined an agreement with the Ministry of Health that would allow him to open a medical practice and university in the country.
“I cannot get an MOU with the Ministry of Health to bring in free medical and healthcare supplies to Cambodia for our people and our government’s hospitals,” he said.
“Please note that I am not a politician. I am just an educationist, a medical doctor and a humanitarian. I just want to do my part to help our government, our people and our country,” he added.
He does not, however, believe that the decision was a direct response to his critical comments.
“I think that the actions taken ... against me are not an act by the government, but an act of an individual and/or groups of individuals who misunderstood my motive,” he said. “But, I want to continue to contribute in small or big ways to the development of our country and I hope I can continue to do so despite [the] obstruction,” he added.
Health and education ministry officials could not be reached for comment.
San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Cambodia (ANSA), urged the government to welcome constructive criticism and investment in the health sector.
“I would ask both policy makers and politicians to be open to criticism and accept the comments to include in the government’s policy programs, which is an advantage for deep reform,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen personally responded to Mengly’s comments at the time, 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.