The Cambodian “Jungle Woman:” One Of The Greatest News Stories Of All Time


There’s a lot of big news breaking out there. The Israeli Commando Raid on the Flotilla. The BP Oil Spill is still going on. And Barack Obama is undoubtedly trying:  to:  decide:  which part of:  the:  American dream he wants to systematically destroy next. But sometimes, a story is just so full awesome that you’ve got to write about it, even if it doesn’t matter a hill of beans to anyone at the end of the day. The Telegraph’s “Cambodian ‘jungle woman’ flees back to wild” is such a story.

Let’s take it piece by piece and you’ll see why.

Rochom P’ngieng, now 29 years old, first disappeared into thick hilly jungle in 1989 when she was a little girl. She was “discovered” in early 2007 and reunited with her family.

However, attempts to reintegrate her have failed. She has not learnt either of the local languages, Khmer or Phnang, prefers to crawl rather than walk, refuses to wear clothes and has made several attempts to return to the forest where she grew up.

Can you imagine spending 18 years alone, running around in the jungle? It’s like the real life version of Jungle Book, except with no friendly talking bears.

Her father, Sal Lou, a policeman, said that she had been making progress recently, but disappeared on Tuesday evening. “She took off her clothes and ran away from the house without saying a word to any of our family members,” Mr Lou said.

“Even the day before she fled the house, she still helped the family pick vegetables. She must have gone back to the forest and we still cannot find her.” The dramatic reappearance and attempted reintegration of the “jungle girl” has gripped Cambodia, where she is also known as the “half-animal girl” because of her hunched appearance and the fact she makes animal noises rather than speaking.

Can you imagine? A hunched over girl making lion noises and picking potatoes? That may also explain why she ran away. I mean seriously, living alone in the woods is probably pretty awful, but picking vegetables with your parents is no picnic either. Of course, the family has another explanation for her decision to flee,

Mr Lou blames his daughter’s second disappearance on “forest spirits”. In a society shrouded in mystic beliefs, he has also enlisted a fortune teller to help with the search. He is saving up for an offering of one wild ox, one pig, one chicken and four jugs of wine, which, the mystic assures him, will secure his daughter’s return.

FOREST SPIRITS. Wow, how did we miss that angle? Also, in most parts of the world, if your daughter went missing, you’d get together a search party and head into the jungle to search for her. But, that’s apparently too conventional for the people of Cambodia. So instead, they’re going for a fortune teller. And isn’t it sad that this poor man needs to find his daughter and there’s no government program to provide him with the necessary farm animals for the fortune teller? If he lived here, we’d probably already have members of Congress suggesting a 400 million dollar “free goats for psychics” program and people who complained about it would be accused of hating Cambodian-Americans and the poor.

Rochom first disappeared in 1989 while herding water buffalo with her sister in the province of Ratanakkiri, 400 miles north-east of Phnom Penh.

Her sister has never been found, but Rochom emerged from the jungle, filthy, naked, scared and “looking like a monkey” in February 2007.

She was caught stealing food from a farmer’s lunch box after a stakeout.

Locals reported sightings of her with a naked man carrying a sword, who they believe to be a jungle spirit.

You leave an 11 year old kid alone in your house here and people treat you like a bad parent. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, they let 11 year olds herd water buffalo. On the other hand, we don’t end up with a lot of animal children disappearing for 18 years and showing up out of the blue with naked forest spirits…..ehr, let’s HOPE it was a forest spirit.

So, was that one great story or what?

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