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Two men hurt in acid attack; toll rises to 30

AT least 30 people have been injured by acid attacks this year, as an assault this weekend saw two men hospitalised.

Activists warn that the number of people affected by acid violence so far in 2010 has likely already eclipsed last year’s total.

The Saturday attack happened in Russey Keo district’s Tuol Sangke commune, said Chan Sahuth, the deputy district police chief.

“We are searching to arrest the suspect but we don’t clearly know the reasons behind the attack,” he said.

He identified the two victims, both construction workers, as 30-year-old Hin Seng and 26-year-old Chhang Nab.

Chhun Sophea, programme manager at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, said the two men had been riding a motorbike when they were attacked.

CASC staff members visited the men at Calmette Hospital on Saturday, she said.

She said that Hin Seng had told her he believed he was the target of the attack, but that he could not identify the assailant.

Hin Seng’s injuries are the more serious of the two, she said – the 30-year-old suffered severe burns on half of his body.

The attack brings the number of reported acid attack victims up to 30 this year, just short of the 33 survivors recorded by CASC last year.

However, Chhun Sophea noted that the 2009 figure included an unspecified number of older attacks that weren’t reported until last year.

“The number of survivors is up to 30 so far this year already, and we are only in August,” she said. “This is quite a drastic number.”

This year’s tally was inflated by a single attack outside a garment factory in Dangkor district last week that injured eight people. Police initially reported only four victims but Chhun Sophea said there were twice as many.

A government committee tasked with drafting new legislation to curb acid violence was formed in February after a spate of attacks that began late last year.

Representatives of the committee originally said they expected to finalise the draft law shortly after Khmer New Year, but officials have revised the timeline until the end of the year.

Chhun Sophea said she believed authorities were serious about cracking down on acid violence, but she urged them to prioritise work on the new legislation.

“The law needs to come out urgently now,” she said.

“With all of these attacks happening, there is an urgent need for this new law.”

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