A groundbreaking ceremony for the $17 million expansion of Dr Beat Richner’s Kantha Bopha I Hospital in Phnom Penh may have also marked a new era in the antagonistic relationship between Richner and the Ministry of Health, Richner said Tuesday.
At the ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized the Ministry of Health and international organizations for what he said was unfair interference in Richner’s work.
“Some experts have said [things] which have caused bad effects to Beat Richner’s hospital, and also the Cambodians’ right to receive equal treatment,” Hun Sen said. “This is wrong.”
Richner—the cello-playing pediatrician long vocal in his criticism of corruption in the Health Ministry—expressed surprise at the Prime Minister’s comments.
“Today, he has changed,” Richner said after the ceremony.
Richner said that in light of the government’s conciliatory tone, he may at last consider signing a contract with the Health Ministry—but on terms that would include his refusal to pay taxes to the government.
Mam Bun Heng, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Health in the last and current mandates, said Tuesday that the ministry will “try to be better” in its dealings with Richner. Construction on the new 700 bed facility will take 18 months, Richner said.