Acid attack victim Ya Sokhnim, the aunt of prominent beauty queen In Soklyda, died in Phnom Penh yesterday morning of injuries stemming from a 2008 crime masterminded by her niece’s lesbian lover.
Ya Soknim’s husband Uong Vibol, 46, said yesterday his 39-year-old wife had passed away about 9am after being admitted to the Calmette Hospital a week ago.
“I really pity and mourn my wife. She died because she was injured very seriously by acid,” he said.
On May 8 , 2008, two men on a motorcycle accosted Ya Soknim in the capital and poured acid over her face and upper body. She suffered severe burns as a result, losing her right eye and breast.
Chea Ratha, former deputy chief of staff of the military police and In Soklyda’s lover, was acquitted in absentia in August, 2009 along with six suspects: Ea Puthea, Meas Mao, Siek Chandy, Chan Dara, San Nuth and Siek Sophal.
Three months later, however, the Appeal Court reversed that decision and handed the suspects sentences of between 15 and 18 years in prison.
Although the Supreme Court reversed one conviction in October last year, it upheld the Appeal Court verdict for the remaining six and agreed Chea Ratha had ordered the attack after In Soklyda fled a forced lesbian relationship. Four of the suspects remain at large.
Evidence presented in court at the time of the investigation included recorded phone calls in which Chea Ratha threatened to kill In Soklyda’s relatives, phone logs for Chea Ratha and her co-defendants on the day of the attack, and a report confirming acid was found in the home of one of Chea Ratha’s associates.
Uong Vibol said yesterday that Ya Soknim had used so many medicines to treat her injuries that it had affected her health, causing lung and intestinal disease.
“She could not eat and she always vomited. I really pity my wife. She should not have died in a very difficult situation like this,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, senior monitor at rights group Licadho, said yesterday that he regretted both Ya Soknim’s death and that some of the perpetrators in the attack had not been arrested, even though the court had convicted them.
“She passed away carrying injustice with her because she did not see police arrest the perpetrators to punish them through the law,” he said.
National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith could not be reached for comment yesterday, but told The Post in June last year that police had investigated the case and sought to arrest Chea Ratha.
“It is not easy to arrest her because she is not in our country. She lives in another country, so it is difficult to arrest her if the authorities in that country don’t co-operate with us,” he said.
Am Sam Ath added that police officials needed to improve their skills because there had been no arrests in connection with acid attack cases such as that of Tat Marina, a karaoke actress who was the victim of a brutal acid attack in 1999.
Yesterday, however, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced three perpetrators of an acid attack that took place in the capital in January this year.
Brothers Ne Phaneth, 23, and Ne Phaneath, 25, were sentenced to four years in prison for pouring the acid.
A woman, Hao La, was sentenced to three years in jail after it was found that she was responsible for initiating the attack on the victims, Rin Sok Lin and Seng Touch.
“They seriously wounded two women by pouring acid on them. These actions are against the law and have no place in Cambodian society,” Judge Seang Nang said.
“Therefore, the court has decided to sentence them both to four years in prison and jointly compensate the victims of the attack 30 million riel (US$7,315).”
Hao La worked in the same factory as Seng Touch which, according to police reports, was the site of an argument between the two women that eventually led to the acid attack.
All three of the perpetrators declined to comment after their guilty verdicts were handed down.
Their lawyers could not be reached for comment.
Rin Sok Lin, a 25-year-old victim of the attack, said she had wanted the court to sentence the perpetrators to five to 10 years in prison, but thought the sentences given were better than no sentences at all.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA