Disabled Orphan Flies to US at End of Bureaucratic Delay

Disabled 2-year-old orphan Roth Arun boarded an airplane bound for the US for medical treatment Thurs­day evening after a cliff-hanger of bureaucratic battles that lasted until only hours be­fore his departure.

“I’ve delivered at least a couple hundred babies and taken care of pediatric patients,” said Dr Paul Heinzelmann, shortly before he departed with Roth Arun for the US. “But, it’s going to be a long flight for both of us. I don’t have any children of my own, so chang­ing diapers is going to be quite a challenge,” he said earlier Thursday.

Ellen McDaniel of Children’s Medical Mission will receive Roth Arun in New York and take him to Boston, where doctors at Bos­ton Children’s Hospital plan to assess and treat Roth Arun’s large facial growth and fit his left arm and leg for prostheses.

At 8 am Thursday, representatives of the NGO American As­sis­tance for Cam­bo­dia were at the Min­istry of Social Af­fairs attempting to secure the final documents for Roth Arun’s voyage. Toch Chay, chief of the Cabinet at the min­istry, explained that Minister Ith Sam Heng would sign a let­ter instructing the Nutrition Cen­ter to allow Roth Arun to go only if he first had letters of release from both the Nutrition Center and the De­partment of Children’s Wel­fare.

However, Toch Chay helped to orchestrate a meeting of all necessary parties at the Phnom Penh De­partment of Social Affairs, where both letters were signed.

“I would like to help in ways that will not cause problems later, by following the law,” Toch Chay said.

Chea San, director of the Phnom Penh Social Affairs De­part­­ment said: “I will agree to everything, because [retired King No­rodom Sihanouk] has shown his support.”

Mao Sovadey, chief of the De­part­ment of Children’s Welfare, ac­quiesced, but complained that the pro­cess had been inverted from the conventional bottom-up path: From an NGO through an or­phan­age to the ministries and up­ward to Prime Minister Hun Sen.Roth Arun’s case was brought to the attention of Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath by Bernard Krisher—the director of AAfC and pub­lisher of The Cambodia Daily, and later Deputy Prime Minister and co-Minister of Interior Prince No­rodom Sirivudh who signed a letter helping to secure the 2-year-old’s passport. The case was also taken up by Deputy Director General of National Police Sau Phan.

At the departure gate with Roth Arun in his arms, Heinzelmann wondered whether the toddler’s trip would significantly alter his future. “Is he going to be back in the Nutrition Center, but with a prosthesis?”

“I don’t know,” he said, in an­swer to his own question.

(Additional reporting by Ian Neubauer)



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