Stroke Hospitalizes Performer

The voice was instantly recognizable, but so weak it was hard to hear.

“Help…help me!” said Loto, one of Cambodia’s best-known comedians since his days as a midget film star in the 1960s. Loto, or Shorty, was the stage name of Soun Bou, now 76 and seriously ill at Calmette Hospital.

He suffered a stroke Friday, and remained partially paralyzed Monday. His wife, Nak Noeun, 66, said he also has diabetes, high blood pressure and stomach problems.

“He has become confused, and cannot remember his chil­dren,” she said. “This is the end of his career as a popular comedian. Even if he recovers, he can no longer perform.”

Soun Bou’s health problems grew serious in April when stomach pains forced him to abandon a one-month engagement in France after only three days.

His fellow performer Mam Sopheak, who uses the stage name Neay Chrouch, said Soun Bou returned to Cambodia where he was hired to perform on several TV shows, at $10 an appearance.

He was barely able to complete those performances, Mam So­pheak said.

“He walked leaning on a walking stick, and cut his performance short in order to rest [backstage],” where he lay on the floorboards between scenes, Mam Sopheak said.

Without the main breadwinner, Soun Bou’s family is virtually indigent. They hope his fans will remember the joy he gave them and help to pay his medical bills.

Soun Bou has two wives, 13 children and 35 grandchildren. His son, Bou Sarou, 38, is a comedian, but at normal height has never been as popular as Loto. Two granddaughters dance for TV5, but the family must sell boiled eggs and collect scrap to survive.

Soun Bou was a special favorite of King Norodom Sihanouk during his heyday. Last month, his son-in-law took him to the palace to ask the King for help, but the guards would not let them in.

“He loves the King,” Mam Sopheak said.

“When he sees the King’s photo, he kisses it and joins his hands and prays for him.”



Related Stories

Latest News