Sitting next to her son’s hospital bed, 50-year-old Ev Lang touched her 17-year-old son’s hand—and expressed fear that it would never move again.
“I’m scared my son will be a cripple,” Ev Lang said.
Tou Khunnaroth was shot in the neck on Wednesday, during a protest in front of the US Embassy. Three demonstrators were shot and at least one person seriously beaten when police cleared hundreds, perhaps thousands, of demonstrators away from the streets around the embassy.
On Friday, a CT scan revealed bone fragments in Tou Khunnaroth’s spinal cord. Doctors say he needs an urgent operation, but it is expensive and the family is appealing for money.
Without the operation, he will remain a quadriplegic, one local human rights official said.
At the moment, Tou Khunnaroth is unable to move any of his limbs, but he can talk.
Tou Khunnaroth was a student at Chaktomuk High School and had many friends—with whom he had been sneaking off to join demonstrations around the city, his mother said.
It wasn’t until Sunday that Ev Lang, a rice seller with five children, learned where her son had been spending growing amounts of time. She said she pleaded with Tou Khunnaroth to stop participating.
“I told him: Please don’t go to demonstrate because our hands are empty and the police have weapons we can’t fight against,” Ev Lang said.
After he was shot, friends quickly rushed him to one of the city’s major hospitals, Ev Lang said. She heard about her son from friends and quickly rushed there herself.
Police arrived at the hospital shortly afterwards looking for her son, Ev Lang said. At that time, doctors there refused to allow police to see the victim, she said.
Human rights organizations and medical officials have asked that the hospital’s name not be released. Several medical centers around the city said Friday they have had visits from police and groups of officials asking to see victims from the protests. In all cases, entry was denied.
Human rights workers picked up Tou Khunnaroth about two hours after he was originally admitted and moved him to another hospital.
(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito)