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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Acid death in Sihanoukville may test law

Acid death in Sihanoukville may test law

A young woman died in hospital on Saturday after a vicious acid attack in Sihanoukville the night before, police said yesterday.

The death of Kruy Aing Chheng, 20, a trainee card dealer at the Fortuna Casino, is a tragic end to a year notable for a sharp decline in attacks, attributed in part to the introduction of the Kingdom’s first acid law a year ago.

Preah Sihanouk provincial police officer Sok Sareth said a man threw acid at Aing Chheng, striking her on the face and neck, as she rode her motorbike home from work at about 9pm.

“Her boyfriend has since fled,” Sareth said, adding that he was wanted for questioning over the attack.

Lieutenant Colonel Kol Phally, deputy chief of Preah Sihanouk provincial police, said the attack on the 20-year-old, from Kandal province’s Saang district, appeared to have been motivated by jealousy.

“She was seriously wounded on her face and neck in the attack near Ochheuteal Beach and died the next day at a hospital in Phnom Penh.”

The acid attack was the seventh in Cambodia this year, a figure markedly lower than in recent years.

Ziad Samman, Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity project manager, told the Post that 24 attacks occurred in 2009, 26 in 2010 and 17 last year.

Sorn Ramana, project coordinator of the Cambodians Ending Acid Violence research and advocacy project, was not aware of the latest tragedy, but said she believed the acid law, introduced last December, had played a part in reducing attacks.

“Part of this has been awareness [created by NGOs] and people knowing how bad the impacts of an attack are. But the passing of the acid law has helped,” she said.

Its overall effectiveness, however, remains untested, because no one has been tried in court on charges brought under the acid law.

In a landmark case in June, Pov Kolab, 20, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for an attack that left 52-year-old Kong Touch severely disfigured.

Kolab was convicted of attempted murder by using acid and ordered to pay $5,000.

“But they charged him under the criminal law,” Ramana said. “There has not been anyone charged under the acid law itself.”

If apprehended, the perpetrator in Saturday’s attack in Sihanoukville would  be tried under the acid law.

While attackers face life in prison, elements of the acid law relating to preventing accidents remain incomplete as the government has not yet signed off on a sub-decree regulating the use and transportation of acid.

“When I last checked about this, this had not been passed,” Ramana said. “It is really important they pass the sub-decree; it will help.”

Ouk Kimlek, under-secretary of state at the interior ministry, said in May the sub-decree had been completed in draft form but not signed off – a status that remains the same.

“It has been sent to the Council of Ministers for approval. I hope it will be adopted by the government in early 2013,” he said yesterday.

Aing Chheng’s family could not be reached for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com

With assistance from Shane Worrell and Joe Freeman

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