Two people are in serious condition in a Phnom Penh hospital after a jilted lover allegedly doused them with acid late on Monday.
Welder Kea Samnang, 22, and his alleged lover Sa Sokha, 18, were attacked by Samnang’s 25-year-old girlfriend, Pach Chansereiroth, authorities said.
Heng Chakrya, a plastic surgeon at Preah Kossamak Hospital, said Sokha sustained severe acid burns to the right side of her face and injuries to her back and chest. Samnag was being treated for serious injuries to his head, back and chest.
Chakrya said the acid had not yet impaired Sokha’s vision but could not determine if the victims’ condition would deteriorate as the acid burned deeper over the coming days.
“We will continue to track the condition of the patients, because a wound caused by acid is not like a wound caused by fire; it depends on if the acid is strong or weak,” she said.
Mok Hong, Sen Sok district police chief, yesterday said that he was preparing to send Chansereiroth’s case to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today, but declined to comment further.
However, on condition of anonymity, an official in charge of crime at Sen Sok district said the attack was motivated by jealously over infidelity.
The official said the victim Samnang and the suspect Chansereiroth lived together as romantic partners, but she was livid when she discovered he was allegedly having an affair with Sokha, a student at the Royal University of Fine Arts.
Chansereiroth then met with the pair and poured a full bottle of acid on them.
A man who claimed to be Chansereiroth’s uncle but refused to give his name said he was angered by the actions of his niece and would discuss compensation with the victims.
The introduction of the Acid Law in 2012 saw a significant drop in the number of acid attacks – from 30 in 2010 to five in 2014 – but activists say more still needs to be done.
Licadho’s Am Sam Ath urged the government to strengthen controls on the sale of acid, saying it was still far too easy to purchase the dangerous substance.
Cambodian Human Rights Center executive director Chak Sopheap said in an email that the law was still “far from perfect” and there should be a national fund to support victims with hefty hospital and legal fees.
“A deeply-rooted practise like acid violence cannot be eradicated overnight,” she said. “In addition to medical treatment, action is also needed to support victims against the discrimination and stigmatization that often follows an acid attack.”
Sarah Knibbs, UN Women deputy representative in Cambodia, said acid attacks were “most often perpetrated against women” and survivors "often lack adequate legal, medical and psychological support".
“There is also a need to address underlying gender dynamics and power inequalities in order to prevent such attacks in the first place,” Knibbs said.