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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 10:01 GMT
Psychologist to see 'jungle-girl'
Woman believed to be Rochom P'ngieng
The woman has tried to escape from the family she is living with
A Spanish psychologist is travelling to Cambodia's remote north-east to assess a woman who some people believe has been living in the jungle for 19 years.

Hector Rifa, of Psychologists without Borders, said he wanted to ensure she was well and getting enough support.

The woman was reportedly discovered 10 days ago, naked and scavenging for food in the forests of Rattanakiri province.

A family claims she is their daughter, Rochom P'ngieng, who went missing when she was eight.

They say they identified her from a scar on her arm.

But others are sceptical, saying she could be somebody with mental problems, or have gone missing more recently.

'Normal situation'

The woman, who appears unable to speak any intelligible language, is reported to have tried to run away several times as locals and journalists have descended on the village to look at her.

Mr Rifa, of Spain's Oviedo University, has been working with Cambodia's hill tribes on issues of health promotion for the last four years.

Woman believed to be Rochom P'ngieng (left) with the family that claims her
The family is at the centre of huge attention over the case

He said he would try to evaluate the woman and "to try and understand her behaviour in relation to her family and her community".

He said her behaviour was not unusual for someone who had undergone an extreme change in her circumstances.

"I think it's very normal - you leave the office for one month, and when you get back you find it a little strange," he told the AFP news agency.

"Imagine you are (away) for 18 years and you come back to that office again.. it is a very normal situation to be afraid."

Two local human rights groups expressed concern about the woman's physical and psychological welfare on Monday.

Village policeman Sal Lou is certain the woman is the daughter he lost when she disappeared while tending buffalo in 1988.

Cambodia map

He has said he will have DNA tests taken to prove she is his daughter.

He described how she was naked and "walking in a bending-forward position like a monkey" when he first saw her. "She was shaking and picking up grains of rice from the ground to eat," he added.

He says she is unable to communicate and is able only to make animal noises.

But some are beginning to doubt Sal Lou's story.

One onlooker who travelled to see her told the AFP: "She looks normal like us".




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