THE family of Tat Samarina, the 16-year-old former mistress to Council of Ministers
Undersecretary of State Svay Sitha, who was horribly mutilated in an acid attack
on Dec 5, 1999, allegedly perpetrated by Sitha's wife, Khoun Sophal, and her two
bodyguards, has filed a civil suit in the United States claiming damages against
the Cambodian Government.
Svay Sitha, left, at the inaugural demobilization ceremony on Sunday, May 7
On May 9 the Cambodian Embassy in Washington, DC, confirmed that it had received
a copy of a legal complaint filed by Marina against the Cambodian Government, but
was unable to provide details of the nature of the complaint.
"The Embassy has only received a copy, not the original of the person's complaint,
which were addressed to the government and Licadho," the Cambodian Embassy in
Washington told the Post by email. "The Embassy only acknowledged receipt of
the documents and has forwarded them to Phnom Penh, which is the normal procedure."
Neither Licadho nor the American Embassy in Phnom Penh was aware of the complaint.
Spokespersons for both the Ministry of Justice and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court
claimed to have no knowledge of a civil suit launched on Marina's behalf in the United
Marina has been undergoing treatment at the Shriners burn unit in Massachusetts,
where her brother, Tat Sequindo, is a medical student, since Feb 25.
Sophal is alleged to have poured a five-liter can of nitric acid over the head and
shoulders of the former karaoke video performer in a brutal daylight attack witnessed
by dozens of people at a noodle stand near Phnom Penh's Olympic Market.
The attack left Marina horribly disfigured, destroying much of the skin on her face
and back and severely impairing her sight and hearing. Doctors in Vietnam, where
she was taken for skin-graft operations in February, subsequently removed her ears
due to fears that the rotting flesh would cause potentially life-threatening infections.
Although a warrant was issued for Sophal's arrest in late December, neither she nor
her two bodyguards have yet been arrested. Police admit that Sitha, a former close
advisor to the Government, has never been questioned regarding his wife's whereabouts.
Licadho spokeswoman Eva Galabru told the Post that it had not received any information
regarding a civil suit against the Cambodian government.
According to Galabru, Licadho's participation in Marina's case was severely constrained
due to the intervention of bodyguards posted outside her room at Kosamak Hospital,
who refused Licadho medical staff access.
"What Licadho was offering [Marina and her family] was medical assistance, but
an individual blocking the door who claimed to be her brother would not let us in,"
Galabru said. "We later found out that her brother was in the United States."
Galabru welcomed the possibility of an opportunity to launch a renewed investigation
into Marina's case.
"It's an important case because there are allegations that this another case
of impunity," Galabru said. "If we receive a complaint [from Marina and
her family] we'll definitely launch an investigation."