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Teen starlet victim of acid attack in capital

Teen starlet victim of acid attack in capital

TWO assailants on a motorcycle doused a 16-year-old talent-show winner with half a litre of acid on Tuesday morning – the second such incident in Phnom Penh in less than a week – leading to a fresh call to regulate the its sale in Cambodia.

Hang Srey Leak, 16, was at a hairdresser’s salon on Street 84 in Daun Penh district when two people pulled up on a motorcycle and poured acid over her body, district police said.

She is being treated at Calmette Hospital for burns on her face, back and leg, police said, although her condition is not thought to be serious.

Ziad Samman, of the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, said 10 acid attacks had been reported to the organisation so far this year. He called on the government to prevent further attacks by introducing strict guidelines for the sale of acid.

“One possible way to prevent attacks is to stop them before they start,” he said. “One of the reasons that help contribute to acid attacks is because it’s so readily accessible. One of the things worth looking into is a regulation of acid, so it would make people selling acid more accountable.”

But Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the authorities found it “too difficult” to control the use of acid in the Kingdom. “It is impossible to ask sellers to tell their customers to get a prescription to buy acid,” he said. “What we must do is arrest the perpetrators.”

Pin Kong, deputy police chief of Srah Chak commune, said investigating officers believed they had identified the suspects in Tuesday’s attack, although no arrests had yet been made.

“The perpetrators are relatives of the victim,” he said. “They helped the victim become a star, and they are seeking revenge because she does not do as she’s told.”

Hang Srey Leak was crowned one of the winners of TV9’s weekly talent show High Star in November 2008.

Chev Virak, a TV9 producer and director of the High Star production company, said the teenager – whom he described as a “good performer” – had received several threats in the past.

Tougher punishment
The attack on Hang Srey Leak comes just days after masked motorcyclists threw acid at two teenage sisters who were on their way to meet their mother at a market in Phnom Penh.

Kim Sodine, 18, and her 17-year-old sister Kim Sonita – both hairdressers – suffered severe burns in the assault last Thursday and are being treated in Vietnam.

Police have yet to arrest anyone in connection with the attack and are struggling to establish a motive.

Last week’s incident prompted human rights groups to demand tougher punishment for the perpetrators of acid attacks. Speaking at the time, Ou Virak, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said: “Lack of outrage from government officials and no condemnation from the public is a concern and unacceptable. We’re desensitised to this violence, and it needs to change. The government needs to put more effort into prosecution when lives are damaged.” Acid attacks, while decreasing in recent years, are still a common form of revenge in Cambodia, often committed by jilted lovers.

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