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Nhim Sophath, chief of Boeung Salang village, lies on a hospital bed over the weekend after he was the victim of an acid attack.
Nhim Sophath, chief of Boeung Salang village, lies on a hospital bed over the weekend after he was the victim of an acid attack. Photo supplied

Acid attack hospitalises local chief

A local official was seriously injured in an acid attack in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on Saturday, with those accused of carrying out the attack still at large, police said yesterday.

The chief of Russey Keo district police, Colonel Teang Chansam, said that 67-year-old Nhim Sophath, who has been chief of Boeung Salang village since 1985, was attacked while he was exercising in front of his house early on Saturday morning. According to Chansam, reports from the victim and his wife indicate that the perpetrators were two unidentified young men who drove by on a motorcycle.

“The suspects threw acid on his face while he was walking on the road,” he said. “The suspects then escaped immediately from the scene.”

He added that following the attack neighbours came to Sophath’s aid and along with his wife, who was sleeping inside their house at the time, took him to Calmette Hospital for treatment.

“We have, until now, not been unable to identify the suspects, but are working hard on this case,” he said, suggesting that police had a good chance of apprehending the offenders if the victim’s family cooperated in the investigation.

Police identified the substance used against Sophath as a potent form of concentrated acid – the same variety deployed in a fatal attack against a 15-year-old garment factory worker in March this year, which saw the perpetrator sentenced to life imprisonment.

Kim Sarith, a penal police officer from Russey Keo district, explained that the acid struck Sophath on the forehead, wounding his face and chest. Police remain unsure of the motive for the assault, but Sarith noted that acid attacks were most commonly inspired by personal vengeance.

“According to police’s preliminary investigation, this was most likely a case of a grudge or a love triangle, but the reality is that we do not yet know,” he said.

According to Cambodian rights NGO Licadho, the leading cause of acid attacks in the country is romantic trysts, followed by personal vendettas and domestic violence.

The Kingdom has seen an 80 per cent reduction in attacks since the drafting of national acid regulations in 2010, followed by the 2012 Acid Control Law and limitations on the sale of substances.

However, Saturday’s assault is the third reported incident this year, indicating what the group says is a lack of enforcement of laws.

“The most important issue is the government’s failure to control the sale of acid,” said Am Sam Ath of Licadho, who added that he was unable to identify any previous attack against an official.

Neither Sophath nor members of his family could be contacted for comments yesterday.

Additional reporting by Zoe Holman

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