SVAY Sitha, the Council of Ministers Undersecretary of State whose teenage mistress
was mutilated in a vicious acid attack allegedly perpetrated by his wife, has been
chosen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an official Government observer to an
international human rights conference in New Zealand next week.
Marlene Alejos, Chief of the Cambodian Office of the United Nations High Commission
on Human Rights' (UNHCHR) Monitoring and Protection Unit, told the Post on Aug 3
that UNHCHR had received confirmation that Svay Sitha would be an official observer
at a meeting of the Aug 7-9 UN-sponsored Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights
Institutions in Rotorua, New Zealand.
According to Alejos, Sitha had been selected as an official observer following a
request made by Asia-Pacific Forum organizers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
for suitable candidates.
Sitha gained notoriety with the Dec 5, 1999, acid attack on his 16-year-old mistress,
Tat Marina. Sitha's wife, Khoun Sophal, is alleged to have poured a five-liter can
of nitric acid over the head and shoulders of Marina, a former karaoke video performer,
in a brutal daylight attack.
Cambodian human rights workers expressed dismay at Sitha's selection.
"I'd prefer someone else [attend the conference]," said Dr Lao Mong Hay,
Director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, when informed of Sitha's selection.
"...[Sitha] has his own problems in his own backyard, so someone else should
Dr Kek Galabru, President of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of
Human Rights (Licadho) and the sole other Cambodian invited to the conference, told
the Post that she was "not satisfied" by the prospect of Sitha's participation.
Om Yen Tieng, President of the Cambodian Government's official Human Rights Committee,
told the Post that though Sitha had been selected as a conference observer, he would
be unable to attend because he lacked a visa for New Zealand.
The New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok said they were aware Sitha had been named to go
but had not received a visa application.
Tieng would not comment on the suitability of Sitha's selection.
"I don't think it matters who goes [to the conference]," he said.