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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cruel attack on woman first under new acid law

Cruel attack on woman first under new acid law

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A 23-year-old garment factory worker on Tuesday night became the first victim of an acid attack since a law was passed last year to better control access to acid and punish those who use it to attack others.

Photo Supplied/Phnom Penh Post
Rith Savan recovers in a hospital bed yesterday after being the victim of an acid attack the previous night.

Rith Savan had been doused with acid by another woman about 8pm in her room in the Tuol Sangke commune,?? in the capital’s Russei Keo district, police said.

Tuol Sangke commune police chief Huy Hean said the victim was rushed to Calmette hospital for treatment.

“Almost every part of her body was burned by acid: her face, chest, stomach and legs,” he said.

Torn Puth, the victim’s mother, arrived from her village in Battambang province’s Banan district yesterday morning to comfort her daughter, but became overwhelmed with grief herself.

“I was shocked. When I saw my daughter, I was overwhelmed with pity,” Torn Puth said.

“Only a truly cruel person could have done that to my daughter. I want whoever did it arrested and punished.”

Huy Hean said the attack had been carried out by a woman who was familiar with the victim. The suspect had entered the victim’s room while she was alone, carrying a bowl of acid hidden in a black plastic bag.

Rith Savan was sitting on the floor at the time and her door had been unlocked, Huy Hean said.

The suspect called her name, and when Rith Savan turned to look at her, she tossed the acid on her, he said.

Torn Puth said the assailant targeted her daughter’s face, and the  acid dripped from her face on to the rest of her body.

Huy Hean said police were unsure of the motive for the attack because the victim was now unable to see and speak because of her  burns.

“We are investigating the attack and will arrest the suspect,” he said.

“We know the suspect is female, but I cannot tell you more than that.”

Torn Puth said her daughter was able to speak, but could not do so in sentences. It was physically painful for her to move her lips and she could speak only one word, then wait a while to say another.

She was able to say that the suspect had no real reason for attacking her, Torn Puth said.

“My daughter and the suspect know each other, but they were not close friends,” Torn Puth explained. “One day, I received the phone call from the suspect, who I just know by the name ‘Kha’.

“She asked me to take my daughter back home because she had fallen in love with her husband. Then she hung up the phone.

“I told my daughter about the phone call and she called the woman, but her sister answered the phone.

“Then my daughter told her to tell her sister not to spread lies and warned her that she could be jailed if she did.

“I don’t believe my daughter loved the other woman’s husband. I will not allow the suspect to live freely.  She must be punished by the law.”

The Acid Law was passed in November by the National Assembly and signed by King Norodom Sihamoni on December 21.

It imposes harsh sentences for acid attacks, including up to 20 years in prison for “torture and cruel acts” using acid and up to five years in prison for “intentional violence” using acid.

According to the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, the number of acid attacks fell from 19 in 2010 to 10 last year, four of which occurred in Phnom Penh.

Ziad Samman, project manager at the NGO, said a man had been injured with acid accidentally in Kampong Cham province last month, but the Tuol Sangke incident was the first attack.

“We’ve made contact with the victim and her family,” he said.

“The burns cover quite a large area of her body.”

Another CASC staff member said the charity had offered the victim treatment at its centre.

Ouk Kimlek, under-secretary of state at the Interior Ministry and deputy director of the committee that drafted the law, said it would be up to the court to decide how long the perpetrator was jailed.

WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MARY KOZLOVSKI

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