Cambodia’s ‘Jungle Woman’ Flees Back to Wild
(May 29) — A 29-year-old dubbed the “jungle woman” after emerging from the Cambodian wilderness three years ago naked and unable to speak has now fled back into the wild after struggling to adapt to society. Rochom P’ngieng first disappeared while herding water buffalo in a remote area in the late 1980s when she was a little girl. In 2007, she emerged from the jungle naked and hunched over like a monkey, scavenging for food. She drew attention by trying to steal food from a village, and was subsequently identified and reunited with her family.But she’s had trouble integrating back into society. She hasn’t learned any of the local Cambodian languages, Khmer or Phnang, and prefers to crawl rather than walk. She also refuses to wear clothing and has tried before to escape back into the jungle.
A man named Sal Lou who claims to be her father has told several news agencies that Rochom went missing earlier this week while bathing in a well behind their home in Rattanakiri province, about 960 miles northeast of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
“There is no sign indicating that her disappearance could be foul play. I am sure she went back to the forest,” he told The Associated Press by telephone from the jungle where he’s been searching for her.
A local police chief, Ma Vichet, told Agence France-Presse that authorities are also scouring the area but so far have found no signs of the woman. “We also believe that she fled back to the jungle,” he said.
The jungles of Rattanakiri are some of Cambodia’s wildest and most isolated areas, and are known to be home to hill tribes who live undetected in the forest. In November 2004, more than 30 people emerged from the jungle after taking refuge there after the 1979 fall of Cambodia’s genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, which they had supported.
In this case, Sal Lou said he believed “forest spirits” guided his daughter back to the place where she felt most at home.
“She tried several times before to leave home and live back in the forest but she could not,” he told AP. “This time her wish came true.”