Richner, Health Ministry Seek Reconciliation

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.

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