Protesters Complain of Lack of Health Care at Demonstration

As the opposition protest en­ters its 12th day, organizers be­moan the lack of health care at the massive sit-in across from the National Assembly. Yet government and health-care workers say no one asked them to help.

Demonstrators, who acknowledge that protesters have had no serious health problems, have blamed the Ministry of Health, the International and Cambodian Red Cross organizations, Mede­cine Sans Frontieres and other health groups for not providing care at the sit-in.

The only health care provided is a first aid tent run by a group called First Aid Hospitality. Dr Chan Savorn, who heads the group, said headaches and dizziness account for most of the sit-in’s health problems. But he worries that infectious diseases could spread through the crowds that gather day and night.

Sok Virak, a protester who re­ceived a menthol cotton from the first aid tent Friday, praised the vo­lun­teers, but said he was dis­appoint­ed­ the Health Ministry and Red Cross had “ignored” the protesters.

Chan Savorn suspects politics and fear of violence have kept health workers away, but he says the Health Ministry and medical organizations should provide care as “humanitarian aid” aside from the political situation.

Health Minister Chhea Taing said the ministry has not sent health-care workers to the de­monstration because “we did not get any request for health care or medicine from demonstrators’ representatives.”

He noted that questions about the sit-in’s legality make it “difficult” for the ministry to help.

Uy Sam Ath, officer of the Cam­bodian Red Cross, also said demonstrators “did not ask us for help.” The Red Cross aids natural-disaster victims, but protests are different, he said.

Health Undersecretary of State Dy Na­rong Rith said Wednesday that the Health Ministry has not provided health care to the sit-in for political reasons. Since the ministry’s leadership comprises different political parties, he said, “it is related to politics.”

However, he said the ministry should provide care for “humanitarian reasons,” so he personally has organized volunteers and medicine for the sit-in.

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday on TVK that he would order co-Minister of In­terior Sar Kheng to provide a clinic for the demonstrators.

 

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