Police officials in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district are seeking to arrest a woman who allegedly doused her former boyfriend with acid as she rode behind him on a motorbike on Tuesday afternoon, in what the victim’s family members called an act of vengeance.
The acid attack is the year’s second and the first since a first-ever life sentence was handed down for an acid-related murder committed in March.
According to the victim Leng Socheata’s uncle, Sok Sorin, his nephew had been in a relationship with the 21-year-old Ung Limey prior to the attack, but had ceased contact with her after it was decided she was an unsuitable match for engagement.
“She tried to ask my nephew for $3,000 as well as jewellery for engagement before he even knew her well or had been introduced to her family,” he explained, adding that Socheata sustained “serious injuries”. “After we investigated her background, we found that she was not appropriate for my nephew to marry.”
Sorin claimed that the family obtained information suggesting that Limey was arrested in October in association with drug use and jewellery theft, a fact confirmed by police, after which he broke off the relationship.
“They separated for several days, but on Tuesday, the perpetrator came back to my nephew and they took a motorbike ride. She took the bottle of acid and poured it over his head, seriously injuring him,” he said, adding that Limey was also burned to an unknown degree when the acid flew back in her face.
Numerous police officers spent Tuesday evening and parts of yesterday scouring state hospitals after a photo of the alleged attacker surfaced on social media showing her with bandages covering her eye and part of her face.
“We went down to the Calmette hospital on Tuesday night, and this morning, we went to Phnom Penh Referral Hospital, Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital, and Preah Kossamak hospital, but I suspect she is being treated in a private hospital as the picture she posted on her Facebook shows her in a modern and new bed,” said Mok Borunchhorsak, chief of police in Prampi Makara district’s Veal Vong commune.
Borunchhorsak, who confirmed that his department had previous arrested Limey on drug charges, said a warrant had been put out for her arrest.
“We know her very well, so I don’t think it will take a long time to arrest her,” he said.
Socheata, the victim, received severe injuries to his head and, after spending four hours in a local clinic, was forwarded to Vietnam for additional treatment, his uncle said.
The family is demanding $20,000 in compensation in addition to any criminal charges.
Cambodia has seen an 80 per cent reduction in acid attacks since the drafting of national acid regulations in 2010, which resulted in the passing of the 2012 Acid Control Law and a sub-decree limiting the sale of the substance in 2013. However, 2015 has seen a reappearance of attacks, with a fatal case in March this year leading to a life-sentence for its perpetrator.
“[The attacks] are troubling because they signal that a perpetrator is still able to procure outlawed acid,” said Erin Bourgois, the Ending Violence Against Women program manager at The Asia Foundation and a former project manager at the NGO Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity.
“But the first attack of 2015 has also seen the strongest sentence possible handed down since the acid law was passed.”