Returnee Children Neglected, Family Says

Cambodian-American Ien Nou Muon says he brought his two young US-born children to Bat­tambang province for a vacation.

Relatives say the children are being badly neglected—and that Ien Nou Muon has no plans to take them home.

“He is building a house in Bat­tambang for his second wife,” Kim Ly, the children’s aunt, said by phone from the US recently. “He took about $60,000 that be­long­ed to my dead sister and brother.”

The children—Jacqueline Muon, 8, and Oliver Muon, 6—were born and raised in Long Beach, in the US state of Cali­fornia, the largest Cambodian com­munity in the US. Their mother died a couple of years ago.

Ien Nou Muon brought the children to Cambodia more than a month ago. Interviewed recently at the site of the villa he is having constructed in Battambang, he said he wanted to show them their homeland and expose them to their culture.

“I have a right to take them on vacation to Cambodia or any other country,” he said.

But Kem Sokhim, one of the children’s relatives in Battam­bang, isn’t sure it’s a vacation. “He promised two weeks ago that he would take his children back to the US in a week,” Kem Sokhim said.

Kem Sokhim is so concerned about the children’s health that he has complained to the UN’s human rights office, the Bat­tam­bang district police and to human rights groups.

“The children must go back to the US as soon as possible so they can heal and recuperate before they go to school,” he said.

Seen recently, the children looked more like peasants than pampered US citizens. Their skin was rough and covered in small abrasions. They seemed afraid to speak in front of their father and stepmother.

Asked whether she wanted to go home, Jacqueline Muon whispered, “Yes, I want to go back.”

But Ien Nou Muon said there is nothing wrong with his children. “Their skin has some scratches because they have scratched their mosquito bites,” he said. “I also scratch my arms and legs because of mosquito bites. Conditions here are different from the US, and it is easy to get sick.”

He said that the children had been vaccinated, and that he would take them to the US at the end of the month.

Kao Kim Long, 68, the children’s maternal grandmother, said she was worried about the children but powerless to help. “Their father does not take care of them,” she said by phone from the US. “He is busy with his second wife, so he neglects his children.

“He didn’t even tell me when he took the children to Cambo­dia,” she added.

“If he’s not planning on coming back soon, he should hand over the children to my relatives in Phnom Penh,” said Kim Ly, the aunt. “They need to see a doctor.”


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