Phnom Penh (FN), Mar. 19 – During the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), whole cities and villages were emptied of people. Bak Nim village is a small rural village that underwent forced evacuations by the Khmer Rouge. Many residents were subjected to forced labor, starvation, and other forms of abuse. Elderly residents of Bak Nim village still live with haunting memories of the Khmer Rouge period, including the loss of family members, forced labor, and starvation. Despite the passage of time, the memories of the Khmer Rouge regime continue to impact the lives and health of these individuals, their families, and others in the village who lived through this traumatic period in Cambodia's history.  The story of Bak Nim village and its residents is a reminder of the profound impact that the Khmer Rouge regime had on the lives of ordinary Cambodians, and the lasting legacy of trauma and loss that still affects many individuals and communities in the country today.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) organized a public health/public history - related forum on 18 March 2023, in Bak Nim village to provide free primary health screening for the villagers by two doctors from the Philippines, Doc Demy and Doc Socorro. Among the 120 attendees, 40 villagers who had never been to hospitals due to personal issues, had attended this first of the 3 executive events.  The villagers and the DC-Cam staff and volunteers gathered at 7 AM to initiate the program, where they were briefed on the day's agenda and prepared for the health screening with two professional doctors. Each villager's name was called one by one for blood and sugar level checks, followed by one-on-one consultations with the doctors for detailed reports and medical prescriptions. At 9 AM, food and gifts were distributed to the villagers, who were all delighted and expressed their gratitude. Two DC-Cam staff members asked for the villagers' opinions and feedback on the health forum down below:

Mom Nao, female, 63 years old said, “I have half of my eyes in pain through the nerves and down half of my body. I also have stomach pain. I heard about this event through relatives, and I feel good coming today.”

Koem Reng, male, 58 years old claimed, “I have sore neck, numb arms, and legs. This happens at random times, but I have taken pills to help me before. Today, I am happy and satisfied to be able to check up.”

Phlung Yoeng, male, 66 years old stated, “Before I had high blood pressure, but today I feel good, I just want to get a free check up to be aware of my current state.” After the check, he said he was relaxed and he is speaking in gratitude, “After receiving the free check, there is nothing more than raising 10 fingers to thank DC-Cam and the volunteers that helped us out and making this event. I pray for only the best and happiness for everyone here today.”

Chouk Thenh, male, 59 years old said, “Today, I have stomach, intestine issues that happens before and after I eat. I did take pills that helped me temporary. I am very grateful for this free checkup today because I never heard or seen any NGO that would come to this village and do charity. After I took a blood test, I feel relaxed.”

Sou Yien, female, 59 years old claimed, “I have diabetes and today I feel very happy like no other day. My heart feels with gratitude. Being able to get this free checkup, it lessens my burdens and I can use the money to buy medicine. I never heard of an NGO since 1979 that would ever help.” She speaks as her tears fell down her cheeks, “On a daily basis I would only make $1 a day and some days I could barely make any money at all. So, receiving this support is like a lot and if earning it by myself would take months.”

The free primary health screening organized by DC-Cam and the volunteers in Bak Nim village was a much-needed relief for the villagers. The testimonies of Mom Nao, Koem Reng, Phlung Yoeng, Chouk Thenh, and Sou Yien reveal the health issues that they have been dealing with for a long time due to limited access to healthcare facilities. The event not only provided them with free medical services but also gave them a sense of hope and gratitude.

Many villagers expressed their appreciation for the kind gesture and acknowledged the rarity of such charity work in their village. This initiative by DC-Cam and the volunteers has not only improved the health of the villagers but also helped build a stronger bond between the community and the organization. It is heartening to see such acts of kindness and generosity, especially in underserved areas where people have limited access to healthcare facilities.

Observation of primary health screening for Khmer Rouge survivors in Bak Nim Village Kampot province. Beyond the affluence and hustle and bustle of town proper of Kampot, 60 km. near the mountainous beautiful sceneries lies a Bak Nim village where around 40 Khmer rouge survivor lives. We were able in 2 days health screening procedure like physical examination, vital sign, fasting blood sugar, ECG. Our health screening disclosed the following
1. 50 % were diabetic type 2 – some even have no knowledge that they have diabetes

2. 85 % were hypertensive with BP ranging from moderate to severe

3. 30 % with abnormal ECG – from sinus tachycardia, AV block, left ventricular hypertrophy to previous silent MI

4. 10 % were having COPD

5. 90 % are cigarette smoker among men

Prescription were given
Suggest that individualized instruction for each survivor with diabetes and hypertension to prevent further complication of the disease
Dr Demosthenes Reyes

Photos from the event:
March 18, 2023
March 17, 2023

‘Although two millions were killed, five millions more survived to tell their story.’

Youk Chhang
Executive Director
Documentation Center of Cambodia
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