January 26, 2007
Wild Cambodian jungle-girl found


Cambodia – A Cambodian girl who disappeared aged eight has been found after living wild in the jungle for 19 years, police say.

The girl is believed to be Rochom P’ngieng, who disappeared while tending buffalo on the edge of the jungle in remote northern Rattanakiri province.{{more}}

Her father says he has identified her through scars and will have DNA tests taken to prove she is his daughter.

But the BBC’s Guy De Launey in Phnom Penh says there are other possibilities to her identity.

Members of Vietnamese hill tribes often cross into Cambodia through the jungles, he says.

Many are seeking asylum from religious persecution and are keen to avoid contact with the authorities, he adds.

Local police said the woman was “half-human and half-animal” and could not speak any intelligible language.

Her plight came to light when a villager noticed some of his food had been taken and staked out the area, which is 350km (220 miles) north-east of Phnom Penh.

Deputy provincial police chief Chea Bunthoeun told Associated Press news agency: “He spotted a naked human being, who looked like a jungle person, sneaking in to steal his rice.”

The villager and some friends then caught the woman.

Sal Lou, a village policeman, said he recognised the woman as his daughter from a scar on her right arm.

He said: “When I saw her, she was naked and walking in a bending-forward position like a monkey… She was bare bones.

“She was shaking and picking up grains of rice from the ground to eat.”