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Woman at large after acid attack

Victim Pheng Sreyla, pictured after an acid attack in Kampong Speu province on Tuesday that has left her blind for the time being. Photo supplied
Victim Pheng Sreyla, pictured after an acid attack in Kampong Speu province on Tuesday that has left her blind for the time being. Photo supplied

Woman at large after acid attack

A scorned woman who allegedly doused her husband’s pregnant lover in acid in Kampong Speu province on Tuesday remains at large, police said yesterday, in what was the second acid attack in as many weeks.

The victim, Pheng Sreyla, 23, yesterday described how she was held and beaten by the wife and several family members of her lover, 36-year-old Choem Vuthy.

“While they were beating me, the suspect grabbed two bottles and poured them down on my head,” she said.

“I felt very hot on my head, face and my eyes; it was like fire.”

Sreyla, a garment worker at a small handicraft manufacturer, was collecting her paycheck when she was allegedly set upon by Vuthy’s wife, Chhum Savun, 34, along with Savun’s mother, Huy Van, 66, and siblings, Chhum Savarng, 37, and Chhum Sarvuth, 28.

“Now I cannot see, and the doctor told me that if I still cannot see in two weeks, I will be blind forever,” Sreyla said through tears.

Returning to her Ralaing Kroeul commune home for police interviews, Sreyla said she was seeking justice. She is three months pregnant with Vuthy’s child.

“I know that I love her husband, but I have never wanted them to get divorced. I told the suspect that I am willing to be the second wife,” she said.

Mech Sophoan, Samraong Tong district deputy police chief in charge of serious crimes, said the mother and siblings of Savun had been arrested, but Savun, who he considered the mastermind of the attack, had fled. Police were also seeking another man, Chea Ros, 36, who was suspected of being involved.

Sophoan said the chief suspect’s sister, Savarng, claimed not to know that acid would be spilled in the ambush. “But it might be that my sister is jealous of the victim, who had an affair with her husband for years and urged her husband to divorce [my sister] and live with her,” she said, according to Sophoan.

The news comes in the week after another acid attack in which a young couple was targeted by the man’s former girlfriend, a familiar pattern in such attacks, where the perpetrator targets the face to permanently disfigure a woman embroiled in perceived infidelity.

Only three acid attacks were reported by the Post in all of last year, with four in 2015.

Last week’s case saw human rights advocates calling for a stronger enforcement of the Acid Law of 2012, which restricts the purchase and sale of the dangerous substance, while the Ministry of Social Affairs spokesman admitted no support had ever been provided to any acid victim by his ministry, despite the law’s requirement.

“As is so often the case in Cambodia, the gap between the letter of the law and its implementation remains significant,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights executive director Chak Sopheap said via email yesterday.

“In addition to ensuring an end to impunity for acid violence, and putting a stop to this heinous practice, the government has a responsibility to ensure that victims are provided with the support they need.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ERIN HANDLEY

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