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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Victim's misery a modern morality tale

Victim's misery a modern morality tale


Author Kong Bunchoeun

A fictionalized account of the life and sufferings of acid attack victim Tat Samarina

is set to hit Cambodian bookshelves in July.

The Destiny of Tat Samarina is described by author Kong Bunchoeun - who is also Samarina's

uncle - as an attempt to change the current "society of violence" that

resulted in the vicious December 5 acid attack that left the 16-year old former mistress

of Council of Ministers Undersecretary of State Svay Sitha horribly mutilated.

Police have yet to make an arrest in the case, despite a warrant that was issued

in late December for the arrest of Sitha's wife, Khoun Sophal, who is alleged to

have perpetrated the attack along with her two bodyguards. Police have never questioned

Sitha regarding his wife's whereabouts.

"Cambodia is a society that has lost any sense of morality, riven by violence

and injustice," Buncheoun said of his motivation for writing the book. "By

highlighting the case of Tat Samarina, we can hold up a mirror to the ills affecting

Cambodian society."

Bunchoeun has made a career out of attempting to "highlight the problems of

the poor" in a writing career that has produced more than 130 "sentimental"

novels since the 1960s.

"This book is literature, not journalism," he emphasized. "I've fictionalized

some parts of the book, and the names of certain parties - for example Svay Sitha

- are never mentioned."

The purpose of the book, Bunchoeun said, is to "educate" people about how

to avoid the "terrible fate" suffered by Marina.

"The book is not a product of anger, but for the purpose of educating girls

not to become involved with married men and to teach 'first wives' not to use violence

against 'second wives'," Bunchoeun told the Post. "Acid attacks have now

become commonplace in Cambodia, but there are no solutions created by throwing acid

on people or killing ... It's not just power that's important, people must think

carefully and make balanced decisions about their lives."

The book was written while Bunchoeun kept in regular phone contact with Samarina

in the United States, where she has been undergoing skin grafts at the Shriners Burn

Unit since February 25.

"She's had seven operations so far, but will need more than a hundred,"

he said of Samarina's treatment. "I wasn't able to speak with her this week

because her mouth has had to be taped while the doctors try to reconstruct her nose."

While insisting that he's striven to write a "balanced account" of Samarina's

plight and the circumstances that led up to it, Bun-choeun's bitterness toward the

attack that destroyed much of the skin on her face and back and severely impaired

her sight and hearing is difficult to conceal.

"Can you imagine what it would be like to have three liters of acid poured on

your head, back and shoulders?" he said of Samarina's attack. "To have

your skin, clothes and even your telephone smoking and burned beyond recognition?"

Buncheoun is also critical of the lack of progress in pursuing the arrest warrant

against those who allegedly perpetrated the attack against Samarina.

"Tat Samarina's case is very easy to solve because there are pictures of the

bodyguards and Svay Sitha is here in Phnom Penh so it should be easy to find his

wife and bodyguards," he said. "Maybe what [government authorities] want

is to wait until the arrest warrant expires."

According to Bunchoeun, Sitha has apparently been in contact with Tat Sequindo, Samarina's

brother, who's studying medicine in the United States, to attempt to persuade him

to drop a civil suit he's filed against the Government for its role in Samarina's


"That's why I'm writing this book now, while the events are still current, before

they are forgotten in the past," he said.



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