Cambodia Stops Funding Care for Gravely Wounded Pop Star


PHNOM PENH — ; The Cambodian government has stopped financing medical treatment for a pop star gravely wounded by gunmen last year, RFA's Khmer service reports. Touch Sonnich, a high-profile government critic, has been receiving treatment in Bangkok at government expense for three months.

"Council of Ministers official Khieu Thavika will travel to Thailand next week to clear payment for more than U.S.$70,000 to a private hospital to support Touch Sonnich. Her treatment has been financed by government funds since Oct. 2003," an official told RFA's Khmer service on condition of anonymity. "Touch Sonnich's family will now pay [for her care from] their own fund, with the generous help of Cambodians living overseas."

Unknown gunmen opened fire on Touch Sonnich — ; a committed backer of the opposition FUNCINPEC party — ; and her mother Oct. 21. It was the fifth attack on a FUNCINPEC supporter in five days. The attack killed Touch Sonnich's mother and left the popular singer in critical condition at a hospital in Phnom Penh. She was later transferred to a private hospital in Bangkok.

"She continues her treatment at a hospital in Bangkok because she cannot move her body," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

Police have made no arrests so far in connection with the case. Touch Sonnich sang patriotic songs about issues related to Khmer people in Vietnam and other controversial subjects, and she performed the soundtrack for a movie written by FUNCINPEC leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

RFA's Phnom Penh office has received numerous inquiries from Cambodians overseas in the United States and France about Touch Sonnich's condition.

King Norodom Sihanouk, for whose guests the singer often performed, is said to have helped fund her medical evacuation and treatment in Thailand.

Following a national outpouring of grief, the Cambodian government agreed to assume financial responsibility for her care.


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