Peace + Pleasure on the Silk Sea

Rising Tigers

Dr. Billy Chan on Sino-Cambodia Medical Diplomacy
Photo Credits: 
Christopher Cottrell


Dr. Billy Chan recently donated two HK$500,000 sonograms to the Cambodian Ministry of Health and Doctors Alliance (DA) of the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC), on behalf of Professor Manson Fok, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST).

South China Sea Magazine caught up with Dr. Chan, who told us about growing medical diplomacy between Macau, China and Cambodia.

Dr. Chan said:

We really want to help these wonderful people. The first time I met them was at last year’s Gusi Peace Prize in Manila, when his Excellency Mr. H.E. Hun Many won an award. We met the Secretary of State for Industry, the Honorable Sokkung Heng, his Excellency, the Honorable H.E. Hun Many, who is the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and their wonderful UYFC and their team of dynamic doctors with fresh graduates.
"Early this year, during Chinese New Year, we were able to go to Cambodia with our team for a few days to see the temples and the history. They have strong cultural background of Buddhism. I saw some of the situations they have there in the rural areas and I would say primitive in terms of medical care. When we got back to the capital city of Phnom Penh, we met the leaders of the UYFC. Then we found out a lot more of what they do. They took us to a free treatment mission about 70 kilometers from the Phnom Penh. They utilize a very large orphanage and a very large team from France, South Korea. We’re the only people there representing Macau, China, so to speak. What we saw is something that I have never seen before. Some 70 doctors working there for free. Giving free medical treatment, free drugs, free medical consultation. They were highly organized.

"Most people who receive the treatment are underprivileged. They are elderly, some are mentally disabled, many of them are young females. Most of them are illiterate, they’ve never been to school before. The only way to get to the right department is to use color coding. Red is surgical, pink is gynecology, green is for pediatric, so they have color coded triage. They have young and experienced doctors working in the field for the poor. So, we had brought in some supplies, not a lot, but that was our first time. So what I saw was what they really need is equipment to take care of women. Women’s health is an issue. There’s a lot of STDs, a lot of AIDS, and young pregnant ladies, and elderly, they have no idea that they need regular medical checkups. So I saw a line of women queuing up for ultra-sound examination .

"They have some simple equipment. When I saw this I came back to my Faculty and discussed with my Dean and that’s why we are doing this for a good cause. This will be put into good use, our small contribution. They are also using these sonograms for training as well.We’ve known his excellency, the Honorable Hun Many and his team for close to a year, and we know pretty much what they want in line with what we are doing with training in Macau. What we think we can do to help them is involve them into quality training and utilizing our space here, we can help some of there young doctors to come over, to take courses, to be part of our team of workshops, to upgrade their skills, under a risk-less environment in our simulation centre. We were just awarded recognition by the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh this September. We can include them into our training program, with our regular symposiums and seminars, in real terms we can have opportunities for their young people to be trained.

"Cambodia calls itself the small tiger in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and we can see the next 30 years, ASEAN will have three to four trillion in GDP, including Philippines, Myanmar, and Brunei, etc., so it’s a very dynamic region, also with the rise of China. They are pretty much using the rise of China to benefit themselves as well. Xi Jinping’s visit was very important. They have signed MOUs, all for the benefit of the Cambodian people. By and large Cambodian people like the Chinese people, they have a strong affinity with the country since Mao Zedong’s time. This is encouraging to see the two countries work together. In our own backyard here, from our very humble contribution is in the health area. We sort of call ourselves ‘health diplomats’.
We have plans to have higher level visits with the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), some of them want to visit health officials in Cambodia. We can help facilitate that, and do our very best to reach an MOU with them in training.

"I know they have big plans about building medical schools and hospitals, and all so we can work towards to achieving their dreams, so to speak, to have a real sense of collaboration. A lot of times we sign MOUs and you cannot quite work with that country because of distance. But I can see Cambodia is not that far from us. We have our other platform called the Sino-Asia Pacific Medical Forum. We can utilize this platform to reach out to them a bit more. They can do the same to achieve what they want in the same manner as well.

"On May 13 this year, her Excellency Linda Yim, wife of his Excellency H.E. Hun Many, who Is the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, she’s the honorable president of the UYFC, she’s also the daughter of the deputy Prime Minister, she signed an MOU with us already, with our university (MUST). All of this can form to come into fruition because we have things on paper and action as well. Perhaps our young doctors trained in nice comfortable environment here, can actually go and see some the diseases and pathologies that they have never seen before. As you know in this part of the world, basically food borne and water borne diseases have disappeared. We want our doctors to go into the field to rural areas of Cambodia to gain more experience than just books or computer study. They need to see and feel and I hope this will compliment their training. We need to transcend our cultural differences and borders and more in the field. Being a doctor is an honorable profession, so we hope to help our doctors with the best training. This is part of the plan."