THE last time we saw her, Ana, formerly a glamourous young celebrity with a penchant for other women’s husbands, was lying in a hospital bed, stripped of her beauty after being attacked by two jealous wives who poured 5 litres of acid over her face and body.
Fortunately, Ana is a fictional character in a Cambodian soap opera, and she is being touted by the show’s producer as the first television protagonist to become the victim of an acid attack.
Poan Phoung Bopha, producer of Women Tricks, a popular primetime soap opera, said yesterday that she wanted to use Ana to foster a discussion among viewers about acid violence, as the issue is rarely raised in popular culture.
“I want to show the real situation of what happens in our society,” she said.
The law punishes them here, but in reality we do not see police arrest the suspect.
She said that she hoped Ana’s story would underscore the dramatic consequences of acid attacks, and thereby discourage Cambodians from using the corrosive liquid as a weapon. “It is an education point to all people,” she said.
The story differs from reality, she said, in that the perpetrators of the attack are arrested, detained and prosecuted. “The law punishes them here, but in reality we do not see police arrest the suspect,” she said.
Women Tricks, which has aired for the past three months at 7:30pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on the Cambodia Television Network, will conclude this week with a tragic finale, as Ana, unable to live with the scarring and trauma caused by the attack, takes her own life.
“At the end of the story, the victim, who is also the main character, dies because she could not live in society,” Poan Phoung Bopha said. “She used to be a modern woman and proud of her beauty, but she could not do that anymore when she was injured by acid on her face and body.”
Ouk Kimlek, undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and deputy director of a government committee tasked with drafting a new law designed to curb acid violence, said yesterday that he had never before seen an acid attack portrayed in popular media.
He suggested, though, that a show that demonstrated some of the factors that contribute to acid violence could be useful in discouraging attacks.
But he said it could be dangerous to broadcast a programme that shows “how to use acid to pour on someone, or to use acid for revenge”.
Ziad Samman, coordinator of the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, said yesterday that he had not been following Women Tricks, but that it was important for acid violence to be discussed more openly than it has been in the past.
“Changing perceptions in society is key to this legislation that is being developed being implemented successfully,” he said.
He said that portrayals of acid victims in popular media could help “reduce the demonisation” of acid victims, but he cautioned that it was important not to fuel stereotypes, such as the common misperception that all acid attacks result from love triangles.
“I think it is incredibly positive if it shows repercussions for the people who commit these atrocities, and that there are huge psychological impacts for victims,” he said.