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Four wounded in acid attack

A 25-year-old woman faces battery charges in Kampong Cham province after an acid attack in which a mother and two children were seriously injured, police said.

Deputy provincial police chief Chhim Seng Hong said Oun Sreymab was arrested on Sunday night after she poured half a litre of acid over 21-year-old Choy Theary, whom she suspected of having an affair with her husband.

“The perpetrator admitted in front of the court officials that she did it because she was jealous,” he said.

The acid also splashed on Choy Theary’s daughters – Phouk Sombo, 6, and Phouk Minea, 2 – who were sleeping nearby. Chhim Seng Hong said Oun Sreymab, who was also burned in the incident, has been released on bail of 4 million riels (about US$948).

Chhun Sophea, programme manager at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, said yesterday that her organisation was providing medical treatment for Choy Theary and her two children.

She said Choy Theary had received serious burns to the left side of her body, that the eldest child received light burns to her body and that the youngest received serious burns to her face and could not open her left eye.

A report released by CASC last month said that 41 percent – by far the greatest portion – of 236 acid-attack cases recorded by the group between 1985 and 2009 took place in Kampong Cham, and linked that figure to the high number of rubber plantations there.

“In Kampong Cham province, where acid is widely available due to its use in the process of making rubber, there is a relatively high rate of acid related crimes compared to other provinces,” the report said.

Chhun Sophea said she could not give a precise figure of the number of attacks that had taken place in Kampong Cham this year.

Nationwide, she said, the latest incident brought to 18 the total number of attacks tallied by CASC so far this year, and to 36 the number of burn victims – four of whom had been injured in accidents rather than attacks. Last year, CASC recorded a total of 28 attacks and 33 victims.

The figures suggest that, especially this year, innocent bystanders make up a significant fraction of acid attack victims.

Chhun Sophea said the number of bystanders harmed in the latest attack underscored the need for the government to regulate acid sales.

“It is a violent weapon compared with a gun; so many innocent people get hurt,” she said.

“If a gun is considered a violent weapon and they regulated the sale of guns, they should consider acid a dangerous weapon, too.”
She added that such cases were all too common.

“Often the majority of people who get burned in an attack are innocent bystanders,” she said. “We had one case that happened in August where eight people got burned.” That attack targeted just one woman.

Ouk Kimlek, undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and deputy director of a government committee tasked with drafting legislation to curb acid violence, said yesterday that a draft law would be finalised by the end of the month.

“We will complete the draft law at the end of this month and send it the [interior] minister,” he said. “We will send it to the Council of Ministers at the end of this year.”

The committee was formed in February following a spate of reported attacks that began late last year. Committee members originally said they expected to finalise the legislation shortly after Khmer New Year.

Early drafts of the new law called for harsher punishments for perpetrators of acid crimes, including life sentences for the most serious attacks.

Chhun Sophea said yesterday that she had not seen the latest draft, but emphasised the importance of also including preventative measures, particularly the strict regulation of sales, in the new law.

“It’s OK to prosecute people and put them in jail, but the damage is already done,” she said.

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