Clinic Owner on the Run Amid Slow Probe Into Fatal Surgery

The owner of a Phnom Penh cosmetic surgery clinic has disappeared amid an ongoing investigation into a breast enhancement surgery that resulted in the death of a 36-year-old woman, a Health Ministry official said on Wednesday.

The De Beaute Clinic in Russei Keo district, owned by doctor Phe Thong, has also been permanently shuttered for practicing in the absence of cosmetic surgery regulations, according to Sok Kanha, deputy director of the ministry’s planning and health information department.

A woman walks past De Beaute Clinic in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district last month. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A woman walks past De Beaute Clinic in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district last month. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The owner escaped,” she said. “Police are searching for him, but have not yet caught him.”

Ros Sokny, a television vendor from Kratie province, died of septic shock last month in a nearby clinic two days after undergoing the $3,000 procedure at De Beaute, caused by what is believed to have been an infection resulting from the surgery.

The surgeon also fled before undergoing questioning, police said at the time.

“The investigation found that the clinic was operating without standards,” Ms. Kanha said. “There is no legal basis allowing the clinic to carry out cosmetic surgery.”

According to the clinic’s license, which was issued last year and lists it only as a “private clinic,” Dr. Thong is responsible for any malpractice cases that occur there. Ms. Kanha said Dr. Thong would be “held accountable before the law” upon his capture.

“The clinic was allowed to operate to treat general diseases in patients, yet it operated cosmetic surgeries, which is wrong,” she said. “The clinic has been closed forever.”

Ms. Kanha denied knowledge of all but one other cosmetic surgery clinic in Phnom Penh—the industry has grown rapidly in recent years—and declined to say whether the ministry would take action against others.

Russei Keo district police chief Teang Chansar said on Wednesday that police were “trying to speed up” the ongoing investigation into Ros Sokny’s death. He declined to comment on current findings, but said any arrests would require a warrant from deputy municipal court prosecutor Srey Makny.

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