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Gov’t defends acid attack response

Moung Srey Mom receives medical attention at Phnom Penh’s Children’s Surgical Center in 2014 for injuries sustained in an acid attack earlier that year.
Moung Srey Mom receives medical attention at Phnom Penh’s Children’s Surgical Center in 2014 for injuries sustained in an acid attack earlier that year. Pha Lina

Gov’t defends acid attack response

The Ministry of Justice issued a statement on Friday responding to media criticism it was not doing enough to bring before a judge two alleged perpetrators of a November 2014 Takeo province acid attack.

The case is currently before Takeo Provincial Court with the defendants, siblings Beng Meas and Beng Leakhena, being tried in absentia.

The brother and sister are alleged to have doused a mother and her then-2-year-old daughter with acid in response to a business dispute. Both fled the scene and have managed to elude authorities for the 15 months since.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chhin Malin said yesterday that local media had criticised his ministry for failing to bring the siblings to justice and for not jailing their parents, who are alleged to have been involved.

He described this as the media’s failure to properly grasp the court’s procedures and processes, maintaining that justice would be served.

“The involved people will not be free,” said Malin. “The provincial and appeal court put [the parents] on bail.”

Takeo provincial police chief Ouk Samnang said his officers are doing what they can to execute the long-overdue arrest warrant for Meas and Leakhena, but the pair always seem to be one step ahead of the law.

“We are searching for them,” said Samnang. “[But] it seems that there is someone providing information to them.”

“We keep searching for them. One day we will arrest them – they cannot run away from law,” he continued, imploring the pair to “come out and bear responsibility”.

Meanwhile, the suspect in 2016’s first acid attack, which took place in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on February 8, is still at large after nearly a month.

In that case, a jilted husband is alleged to have thrown battery acid at his wife, who was in the process of divorcing him, after she declined his request for reconciliation.

Meanchey district police chief Teng Sino said a manhunt was ongoing, though unsuccessful.

“We are looking for the suspect but we do not where he has been hiding,” Sino said yesterday, adding he is confident that suspect Nget Phally has not fled the country.

Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development, yesterday decried a lack of momentum to prosecute acid attacks.

“The authorities have the capability but they are not willing to work the case,” she said.

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