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Tes Pha, the victim of a severe acid attack in Battambang
Tes Pha, the victim of a severe acid attack in Battambang, sits on a bed at the Children’s Surgical Centre in Phnom Penh last year. Hong Menea

Acid services reduced

With acid attacks in steep decline – not a single attack has been recorded so far this year – the only organisation working directly with acid survivors on the ground is scaling back its services by 75 per cent.

Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) is no longer providing educational support for the children of survivors, transportation to the organisation’s monthly survivor support meetings and has reduced its staff by one employee.

“As a whole, we have scaled down, but we’re still providing services, just on a limited scale,” said Erin Bourgois, a program manager at CASC, adding that the organisation intended to make sure that “no one was left behind”.

The Kingdom’s reported number of acid attacks has fallen significantly. After peaking at 27 in 2010, only three were recorded last year.

Funding has been rolled back as a result, said Bourgois, but remains available if needed.

“We’re hoping the government will take the lead in providing medical support to survivors through the Ministry of Health, and psychosocial services through the Ministry of Social Affairs, which is outlined under the Acid Law,” Bourgois said.

But at least one government ministry spokesman charged with providing aid to acid survivors said no program tailored to victims of an acid attack or accident existed.

“This ministry has no such program for helping acid victims,” said Ngoun Sokkry, a communications officer for the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Health Minister Man Bun Heng and Social Affairs Minister Vong Sauth could not be reached for comment.

Ou Virak, Cambodian Center for Human Rights chairman, urged caution when it comes to relying on the government to provide the support services necessary to rehabilitate acid survivors.

“The government has a tradition of exporting basic rights like medical services to NGOs instead of stepping up and solving the problem themselves,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR

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