Twenty-seven Cambodian Muslim medical volunteers, made up of six doctors and 21 nurses, have visited a Muslim community in Mondulkiri province to give free circumcisions to 100 boys.
The service was funded by Malaysia, Singapore and Arab countries, with the help of volunteer Nann Allavy.
“I go and collect boys from my community, most of them aged between four and 12, to be circumcised,” Mr Allavy explained.
He said he was happy to do the work because he could help orphans and many boys from low-income families, as well as rich ones.
Villager Ith Kai, whose six-year-old son was circumcised by the volunteers from the Association for Coordination and Social Development, said he was very pleased to have his child treated by a specialist doctor.
He said his son could run and play football normally less than a week after circumcision.
“Unlike a few years back when young boys were circumcised in my village, my child has healed quickly,” Mr Kai said.
Kop Roly, head of Hospitals Beyond Boundaries, said that when circumcision is carried out by skilled doctors, children can heal in one week at the most.
When procedures are carried out by unspecialised medics, patients take at least a month to recover.
Dr Roly, who is also a medical volunteer team leader, said that unspecialised traditional circumcisers charge about $10 to $13.50 for each treatment, while skilled doctors charge from $50 to $60.
He said high quality private hospitals using modern materials charged even more.
Mr Kai added: “We support and want to have this kind of programme again in our community next year because the doctors not only provide a free circumcision service but also do so in a professional way.”
Circumcision is a well-known practice among Muslim communities around the world.
The age of circumcision is not clearly specified in Islamic laws but is generally done before puberty. The Prophet Muhammad circumcised his grandsons Hasann and Husayn when they were seven days old.
According to Hadith, the spoken reports of the Prophet Mohammed, Prophet Abraham was also circumcised, but when he was elderly.
There is no concrete evidence showing when circumcision started.
Circumcision is close to obligatory under Islamic law, or sharia.
The ritual is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam, but is considered a custom from the earlier times of the religion.
In western countries, circumcision is done on Muslim boys at an early age.
Dr Roly said that in Cambodia, boys aged between six and 12 were easy to circumcise because they would obey the doctors.
Traditional methods of circumcision practised by Cambodian Muslims are declining because they risk far more harmful effects than the modern ways, he added.
“Traditional circumcisers don’t know how to stitch well,” Dr Roly said.
“They can make boys bleed profusely and become infected.”
Sos Basary, 44, who was circumcised at the age of about 15 in a traditional way by a local unskilled medical man, said he could not walk properly for a month.
“For the first few days I felt so much pain from the incision of razor. I went soaking in the river, and took natural leaves to wrap the wound.”
Dr Roly said male circumcision was crucial in reducing transmission of HIV through sex, and reduced the incidence of penile cancer, which occurs in men of 50 years and older.
He added that it also helps decrease by up to 70 per cent the chance of cervical cancer in women.
According to the World Health Organisation, male circumcision helps reduce the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by about 60 percent, and should be considered an effective intervention for HIV prevention in countries and regions with heterosexual epidemics, high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence.
Dr Roly said the foreskin contains no harmful organisms but moisture can get trapped, creating an environment for bacteria to grow.
Saut Phearum, a urologist and specialist in male reproductive health at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital, said circumcisions should be done on non-Muslims as well for the sake of health.
He said that parents had to check whether their sons’ foreskin could be rolled up.
He advised parents with children aged five and upwards who cannot roll up their foreskin to take them to hospital for treatment.
Dr Phearum also said that penile cancer occurred most often to uncircumcised people, mostly over the age of 45.