There are a series of children’s hospitals in Cambodia named Kantha Bopha. The first few were built in Phnom Penh, and they began with a focus on treating tuberculosis. The war and regime of the Khmer Rouge put a hold on hospital operations for about twenty years, but with Cambodia’s return to peace one of the founding physicians - Dr. Beat Richner - returned to re-open and re-build Kantha Bopha.
Dr. Richner is from Switzerland and is known for his cello-playing as well as his medical work. Each Saturday night, he puts on a free cello concert at the Kantha Bopha hospital in Siem Reap. Gianna plays the cello and we all love music, so we went.
In between each piece, Dr. Richner (Beatocello is his stage name) told us about the public health history of Cambodia from the 1970s to today. He explained how the hospitals came to be, how he was asked to return in the early 1990s to rebuild them, and how they operate today. They treat all patients for free. Cambodians make very, very little money. Why should children of Cambodia not have the same access to proper medical screening and treatment that children of Switzerland have?
The talking and cello-playing continued. Dr. Richner played well, and I enjoyed both the music and the explanations. Towards the end, he showed us a documentary-style video about the building and grand opening of the Kantha Bopha hospital in Siem Reap. The video featured a tour of the hospitals in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap by a former Swiss president.
Several times during the evening, Dr. Richner said, “If there is no justice, there can be never peace.” He spoke of justice in the form of medical care and economic fairness and lack of corruption. He explained that the government hospitals and the private hospitals in this country operate with so much corruption. He wondered aloud about the policies of the world’s public health authorities and how they fall short of meeting the mark of justice through dysfunction. The situation is heart-breaking and infuriating.
He closed the concert with a song and opened my mind to yet another of our world's stories.