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Fellow victims attend rare acid attack trial

Kong Touch, a 52-year-old woman who lost her right eye and lives with scars on her face and body after a man doused her with acid late last year, told her story in a Kampong Cham provincial court yesterday.

The trial, which lasted only one day and included testimony from the victim and the accused, Pov Kolab, 20, is a rarity in Cambodia. About 90 per cent of acid attacks never make their way before a judge, according to the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity.

Kong Touch told the court that she was on her way to work at a rubber plantation in Ponhea Krek district when Pov Kolab came out of nowhere and splashed her with acid.

Police said the attack was part of a dispute over money between the accused and the victim’s nephew.

He pleaded innocent to charges of “attempted murder by using acid”.

A verdict is expected on June 27.

Kong Touch told the Post she was happy to stand in front of court officials and seek justice.

She is also seeking US$30,000 in compensation.

“The trial is done, and I am waiting to see the result,” she said.

Horng Lairapo, medical and legal manager for the survivors charity, said the plaintiff tried to “hide his fault”.

“But what he said in the police report when the police arrested him is the same as what the victim and the victim’s witnesses said.”

Several acid attack victims sat in court yesterday in support of Kong Touch.

The trial coincided with a report released yesterday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, which argued that the country’s acid law, passed in late 2011, could be strengthened. So far, none of the perpetrators of the three reported attacks this year has been charged under the new law, which allows for sentences of up to 30 years.

The report recommended, among other things, that the law mandate timely and thorough investigations of complaints.

It cited the case of Ruas Romdual, who in 2009 pointed out her attacker to a police officer. Instead of making an arrest, he told her to bring the empty bottle of acid to the police station as evidence.

Ramana Sorn, a researcher on acid violence for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said in an email that while the new law is good in theory, the “implementation and the interpretation of the law is very limited”.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com
Joseph Freeman at joseph.freeman@phnompenhpost.com

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