Tat Samarina, showing the disfugurement from the acid attack by Svay Sitha's wife, Khourn Sophal
FAMILY members of teenage acid victim Tat Samarina have been subjected to death threats
from Council of Ministers Advisor Svay Sitha to silence their efforts to seek justice
against her attackers.
Sitha's actions are believed to be aimed at discouraging media attention and legal
action against both himself and his wife, Khourn Sophal, who has had an arrest warrant
out for her since late December 1999 for the vicious acid attack that left Tat Samarina,
Sitha's 16-year old mistress, horribly mutilated.
The Post has learned that Samarina's uncle, Cambodian author Kong Bunchoeun, has
fled the country after receiving threats from Sitha for refusing to cease future
printings of his book, The Destiny of Tat Samarina.
The book, a "fictionalized version" of the sufferings of Samarina, hit
Cambodian bookshelves in August and became an instant bestseller.
According to Bunchoeun's son-in-law, Muth Thary, Bunchoeun was booked on a complementary
Thai Airways flight to Bangkok on September 17 to attend the SEA Writers awards ceremony,
but opted to go overland on September 10 due to concerns for his safety.
"I can confirm that [Bunchoeun] received threats against him, but I cannot say
from whom," Thary told the Post on September 14. The severity of the threats
against Bunchoeun, Thary said, "make it uncertain he will return to Cambodia
after the SEA Writers awards."
Samarina's brother, Tat Sequindo, reached by phone at his home in the United States
where Samarina has been undergoing plastic surgery since February, attributed the
threats directly to Svay Sitha.
"[Sitha] made the threat during a telephone to my sister [Samarina] about three
weeks ago," Sequindo said. "Svay Sitha cursed Kong Bunchoeun, describing
Bunchoeun as 'a cobra', and that he wanted to kill that cobra."
Numerous other relatives of Samarina's, speaking to the Post on condition of anonymity
due to fears for their personal safety, confirmed that Sitha had been actively contacting
them in recent weeks and threatening them with "consequences" if they did
not cease their demands for justice in Samarina's case.
According to Sequindo, however, Bunchoeun's high-profile exposé of Sitha's
alleged role in Samarina's plight makes the risks he faces upon return to Cambodia
"It would be best for Kong Bunchoeun to come to the United States to escape
from danger," Sequindo said.
Post efforts to contact Svay Sitha for comment were unsuccessful.
Samarina as she once was