A newborn baby was abducted from his 18-year-old mother just six hours after she gave birth on Monday at Meanchey district referral hospital in Phnom Penh, officials and the family said Tuesday.
Kov Srey Leak, who lives in Chbar Ampov I commune with her 21-year-old husband, Chhit Pov, said she had been nursing the child at about 4 p.m. when a woman in her 30s dressed in bright pink and purple pajamas came over to her bedside.
“She was very friendly so I thought she must be a patient who had her baby nearby,” said Ms. Srey Leak, who was very emotional and anxious during an interview with reporters at the hospital.
“My husband went home to rest as he looked after us all night…and the woman offered to give my baby a bath because she said he looked sweaty and dirty. I agreed, despite my mother warning me against [giving my baby to a stranger],” she said.
About 30 minutes later she went looking for the woman but both she and the newborn were gone.
After news of the abduction spread, a motorcycle taxi-driver came forward and told hospital authorities that he had given a lift to a woman who fitted the description and was carrying a baby. According to Ms. Srey Leak, the driver said he dropped the suspect off after they crossed the Monivong Bridge, where she was picked up by another driver whom she had earlier called on her mobile phone.
“We are devastated, we fear that our baby will be mistreated and though authorities have said they will find him we don’t have much hope,” she said sitting next to her husband, who works as a tuk-tuk driver.
None of the same midwives who had been on duty at the time of the abduction were working Tuesday, but 42-year-old midwife Hem Channa said that the staff was deeply saddened by the incident.
The director of Meanchey referral hospital, Om Sokha, said that after the hospital became aware of the incident they immediately informed authorities.
“Many people come and go out of the hospital everyday and we don’t keep track of visitors but for future safety we may require thumbprints from people who handle babies.”
Commune police chief Hun Sophal said police are investigating.