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Tat Samarina's family in terror

Tat Samarina, showing the disfugurement from the acid attack by Svay Sitha's wife, Khourn Sophal

FAMILY members of teenage acid victim Tat Samarina have been subjected to death threats

from Council of Ministers Advisor Svay Sitha to silence their efforts to seek justice

against her attackers.

Sitha's actions are believed to be aimed at discouraging media attention and legal

action against both himself and his wife, Khourn Sophal, who has had an arrest warrant

out for her since late December 1999 for the vicious acid attack that left Tat Samarina,

Sitha's 16-year old mistress, horribly mutilated.

The Post has learned that Samarina's uncle, Cambodian author Kong Bunchoeun, has

fled the country after receiving threats from Sitha for refusing to cease future

printings of his book, The Destiny of Tat Samarina.

The book, a "fictionalized version" of the sufferings of Samarina, hit

Cambodian bookshelves in August and became an instant bestseller.

According to Bunchoeun's son-in-law, Muth Thary, Bunchoeun was booked on a complementary

Thai Airways flight to Bangkok on September 17 to attend the SEA Writers awards ceremony,

but opted to go overland on September 10 due to concerns for his safety.

Svay Sitha

"I can confirm that [Bunchoeun] received threats against him, but I cannot say

from whom," Thary told the Post on September 14. The severity of the threats

against Bunchoeun, Thary said, "make it uncertain he will return to Cambodia

after the SEA Writers awards."

Samarina's brother, Tat Sequindo, reached by phone at his home in the United States

where Samarina has been undergoing plastic surgery since February, attributed the

threats directly to Svay Sitha.

"[Sitha] made the threat during a telephone to my sister [Samarina] about three

weeks ago," Sequindo said. "Svay Sitha cursed Kong Bunchoeun, describing

Bunchoeun as 'a cobra', and that he wanted to kill that cobra."

Numerous other relatives of Samarina's, speaking to the Post on condition of anonymity

due to fears for their personal safety, confirmed that Sitha had been actively contacting

them in recent weeks and threatening them with "consequences" if they did

not cease their demands for justice in Samarina's case.

According to Sequindo, however, Bunchoeun's high-profile exposé of Sitha's

alleged role in Samarina's plight makes the risks he faces upon return to Cambodia

exponentially greater.

"It would be best for Kong Bunchoeun to come to the United States to escape

from danger," Sequindo said.

Post efforts to contact Svay Sitha for comment were unsuccessful.

Samarina as she once was 

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