PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – A woman dubbed the "jungle woman" after emerging naked and unable to speak from the wilds of northeastern Cambodia two years ago is sick and apparently suffering from mental illness, a doctor said Friday.
Hing Phan Sokhunthea, chief of Rattanakiri province hospital, said the woman, believed to be 28-year-old Rochom P'ngieng, was taken home Friday after four days in a hospital even though she remained weak and the cause of her nervous distress remained unclear.
She was brought from the jungle in early 2007 after being caught trying to steal food from a villager. Her case attracted international attention after a local family claimed she was their daughter, who was 8 years old when she disappeared in 1988 while herding buffalo in a remote area.
However, the relationship was never proven, and it was never established how she could have survived in the wild for 19 years. Some villagers suspected she was not Rochom P'ngieng, but someone else suffering from mental problems who had been lost in the jungle for a much briefer time.
The man who claims to be her father, Sal Lou, said Friday by telephone that the woman still does not speak any intelligible language.
He said his daughter was hospitalized Monday after she refused to eat any rice for almost a month.
"She was very sick and her condition looks worse than when she was first found," he said. "She is very skinny now."
He said he decided to take her back home after her condition didn't improve and she kept trying to run away.
The Rattanakiri doctor said a preliminary diagnosis found she suffered from a nervous condition.
"We wanted her to stay longer in the hospital, so that we could learn more about her mental state, but her father took her back home without letting us know," said Hing Phan Sokunthea.