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Acid attack victim expelled from High Star talent show

A TALENT show star who was the victim of an acid attack late last year will not be able to compete in a finalists’ competition which begins next month because her scars are still too visible, the girl’s mother and one of the show’s organisers said Monday.

Soam Sichoun said her 16-year-old daughter, Hang Srey Leak, who was crowned one of the winners of TV9’s weekly talent show High Star in November 2009, has temporarily returned to Cambodia after being treated at a hospital in South Korea, but that she still has visible scars that will disqualify her from competing in the talent show.

“I plan to take my daughter back to the hospital in Korea at the end of this month for more treatment, and I will stay there for a year while my daughter receives treatment,” she said, adding that Hang Srey Leak has been treated in three hospitals since half a litre of acid was poured over her face, body and limbs as she stepped out of a Phnom Penh beauty salon in December of last year.

Dy Saveth, a former film star who is an organiser of High Star, said Monday that contestants with scars only on their bodies would be allowed to compete, but that facial scars meant automatic disqualification.

“We don’t allow the contestants to compete if they have scars on their face, even if they have the ability to be a star,” she said.

Chev Virak, a TV9 producer and the production director for High Star, in January said that Hang Srey Leak would not be allowed to compete in the talent show finals if she still has big scars on her body.

Soam Sichoun said Monday that she was motivated to seek further treatment in part by the hope that her daughter would be able to compete again.

“I feel very sorry for my daughter, and I really regret that she cannot join the final contest. I will allow her to be a star again when her wounds heal,” she said, adding that she has already spent over US$20,000 treating her daughter’s injuries, and that, although the hospital in Korea was not charging, it would still be an expensive process.

“The hospital does not charge my daughter for treatment, because they know she is a star, but I have to spend money on food and accommodation,” she said.

Following a spate of reported acid attacks that began late last year, a government committee began drafting a new law that its members have said will include stricter regulations for acid sales and tougher punishments for perpetrators of acid attacks.

The draft law was due to be finalised shortly after Khmer New Year.

Teng Savong, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry and director of the government’s Acid Committee, said Monday that the committee was still in the process of preparing the new draft law and could not confirm when it would be finalised.

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