The yellowed eyes of Phal Pen stared, unseeing, as he lay on his hospital bed, waiting for another scan at the Khmer-Russian Friendship hospital in Phnom Penh.
Since doctors diagnosed him at the end of 2022 with bile-duct cancer, Pen has been struck low by a constant pain in his abdomen. He could barely eat, let alone move.
His bed was one of several lining the hospital’s open-air hallway, where weary patients waited, sweating it out in the humid Cambodian heat. Families surrounded him, women rubbing damp cloths over their loved ones’ foreheads and fussing over every pained expression. Bored children napped on the ground in quieter corridors while others entertained themselves by roughhousing one another.