Nine Years on, Mute Woman Returns to Family in Vietnam

A woman who was discovered naked in the forest in Ratanakiri province nine years ago was reunited with her parents in Vietnam on Saturday morning, said local authorities and the woman’s adopted brother, whom she had lived with for nearly a decade.

O’Yadaw district governor Ma Vichet said that the woman, Rochom P’ngieng, 39, left Cambodia with her family on Saturday morning, traveling by bus back to Vietnam.

“They crossed the border at about 10 in the morning,” he said.

Mr. Vichet said he was unsure of how Ms. P’ngieng’s family had found her, as she had been in Cambodia since 2007, but Vietnamese media said the reunion occurred after her birth father saw photographs of her on Facebook.

Cambodian immigration officials spent about two weeks reviewing the family’s documents before allowing Ms. P’ngieng to go home, he added.

The Bunong family that adopted Ms. P’ngieng said that they regretted that she was leaving.

“We handed the woman to the Vietnamese man because he gave a more clear explanation about the background of the family, and most of the points he explained are very accurate,” said her adopted brother, 38-year-old Rochom Khamphy.

Previously, his father, Sal Lou, a commune police officer who died in 2013, had insisted that Ms. P’ngieng was his daughter, lost while herding water buffalo in the forest in 1989. But these claims remained unsubstantiated.

“I miss her,” Mr. Khamphy said. “I considered her to be my real sister.”

Ms. P’ngieng’s case received global attention when it was reported that she was being kept in a small shed by her adopted family, who said that they had no other means to look after her, given her unstable mental condition.

Mr. Khamphy said that Ms. P’ngieng never managed to speak while living with the family, despite their efforts to teach her, and was only capable of drawing pictures. Her Vietnamese family, he said, told him that she had been that way since birth.

(Additional reporting by Aisha Down)

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the woman was found in Mondolkiri province. She was found in Ratanakkiri province.

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