A group of attackers threw acid on a mother and her son in Siem Reap province Wednesday night, according to police, making it the second reported assault with the chemical substance in less than a week.
After the attack, which took place at a rental home in Sala Kamroeuk commune, the two were rushed to Siem Reap Provincial Hospital, where Yi Oun, 40, is recovering from severe burns that have left her unable to speak.
Her 19-year-old son, Noun Chivoan, suffered minor injuries and was released from care.
Mok Som On, Siem Reap provincial deputy police chief, said he learned from the son that the suspects knocked on the family’s door at night, pretending to want to buy something from their grocery store.
When Oun opened the door, two men were standing there, and one tossed acid that hit Oun in the face and body, grazing her son, who was standing nearby. Motorbikes with getaway drivers were waiting for them in the street, he added, and they escaped.
The police have not identified any suspects, and there probably won’t be any leads until the woman is able to speak.
A doctor at Siem Reap Provincial Hospital who declined to be named said the woman’s condition was “very serious”.
“Sixty per cent of her body was attacked,” he said. “It starts from her foot until her head.”
The acid dousing follows an attack Friday night on a young woman in Sihanoukville, who died from her wounds the next day.
While not fatal, Wednesday’s attack brings the 2012 tally to eight, and symbolically mars what had been a drastic reduction in acid violence compared with previous years. Counting this latest incident, there were 8 attacks in 2012, compared with 17 in 2011 and 26 in 2010.
More than a year has passed since the acid law, which introduced harsher penalties for convicted assailants, went into effect, and it has been credited with the decrease. Its overall effectiveness, however, has come under question.
No one has been tried in court on charges brought under the acid law; it lacks a crucial sub-decree that would make it harder to obtain acid by limiting use and transportation; and arrests of perpetrators are few and far between, rights groups maintain.
Recalling two incidents earlier this year, Sorn Ramana, a co-ordinator for the Cambodians Ending Acid Violence research and advocacy project, said police rarely apprehended suspects.
“I think they said they were waiting for the arrest warrant, or something like that. They don’t take it very seriously,” she said. “Even when they get arrests, the process of bringing them to court is also delayed, it’s all very slow.”
The latest attacks, she said, must serve as a wake-up call.
“It is a kind of a reminder to the government that they should strengthen the implementation of the acid law, as well as push for the sub-decree to be adopted, because we’ve waited for so long,” she said. “These two cases should be the push for the government to take more action.”
With assistance from Joe Freeman firstname.lastname@example.org