Nearly one year after an acid attack scarred her face and body and blinded her in one eye, 52-year-old Kong Touch saw a Kampong Cham provincial judge sentence the man convicted of the crime to 10 years in prison yesterday on charges of “attempted murder by using acid”.
The Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity is calling the verdict against Pov Kolab, 20, which also ordered him to pay US$5,000 in compensation, a milestone in the ongoing fight against impunity for acid attacks.
The vast majority of cases stem from personal squabbles that escalate into violence, and they rarely end up in court.
“I think this example should hopefully act as a deterrent for would-be perpetrators, to realise that you aren’t necessarily going to get away with this brutal form of violence,” said CASC’s Ziad Samman.
The fact that the sentencing happened in Kampong Cham was also meaningful, Samman said.
The province is full of rubber plantations, which use acid in manufacturing, and only Phnom Penh has seen more attacks in the past three years, according to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
Touch told the court that she was on her way to work at one of the plantations when Kolab, who plans to appeal the decision, ambushed her.
The attack was part of a dispute over money with Touch’s nephew, police said.
News of the verdict travelled fast from the province to a support group meeting on the outskirts of Phnom Penh yesterday, where dozens of acid attack victims applauded when the charity made the announcement.
But the celebration was tinged with disappointment, as many, including Touch, considered the verdict too lenient.
Som Bunnarith, an acid victim and consultant at CASC, called the result “50 per cent justice”.
“We are happy to see the perpetrator arrested and sentenced,” but the sentence should have been doubled, he said, adding that the Acid Law, which the Senate passed in December to crack down on the attacks, should provide protection for witnesses who want to speak out in future cases.