Acid victim Som Rasmey
Minister of Women and Veterans' Affairs Mu Sochua is calling for an appeal in the
case of Som Rasmey, an acid attack victim whose assailant was convicted but received
only a two-year suspended sentence
"To me, it is abuse of power by the judge who has the total power to interpret
the law," Sochua said of the Dec 27, 2000 judgment by Kampong Cham Municipal
Judge Tith Sothy against Minh Rinath, wife of Military Region 2 Intelligence Colonel
Sothy refused to upgrade the charges against Rinath to the felony offense of voluntary
manslaughter, arguing that Rinath had intended only to "...damage [Rasmey's]
beauty because of jealousy.
Rinath perpetrated the Nov 6, 1999 attack against Rasmey - which has left her permanently
disfigured and destitute - in revenge for Rasmey's extramarital relationship with
Heng and subsequently kidnapped Rinath's infant daughter. The infant has never been
Neither Heng nor Rinath bothered to attend the Dec 27 trial and the trial has become
an exemplar among human rights workers of the vicious combined effects of impunity
and the widespread violence against women in Cambodian society.
"Pinning down a woman and pouring acid on her face can by no means be interpreted
as a misdemeanor... it's nothing less than [attempted] manslaughter," Sochua
said of the fairness of Sothy's ruling. "After all, they were not slapping the
woman or pouring water on her...you don't need to be a legal expert to understand
[the severity of the crime]."
Sochua has decided to challenge the Kampong Cham court ruling and is advising Rasmey
to file an appeal.
"Several other cases of violence against women, including those involving rape
and sexual assault particularly on minors, have come to my notice wherein strong
evidence against the offenders was not used properly by the prosecuting agencies,
either deliberately due to corruption or due to lack of gender sensitivity,"
Sochua said of her motivation for getting personally involved with Rasmey's case.
"I will personally take all these victims' appeals to the Prime Minister and
even to the King to make sure that justice is given where it is due," she said.
Sochua is also preparing to challenge current legal definitions of rape that are
linked to the "depth of penetration".
"The questions like penetration specifically by a male organ, how deep or shallow,
needs to be thrown out as they leave chances to convert the rape case into that of
a misdemeanor or an assault. Moreover, in several cases of rape, penetration takes
places by other means too, [such as] with a bottle neck, for instance," Sochua
The Minister also plans to call for a review of how "violence" is commonly
defined with regard to sexual violence against females.
"I also differ from the definition of violence as it is accepted by the courts,"
she said. "The law does not need to look for the telltale signs of injuries
on the victims' private parts to conclude that violence indeed took place... it needs
to consider verbal violence and intimidation also."
Explaining that the Ministry of Women and Veterans' Affairs was a "very young
ministry", Sochua said she was not properly equipped to deal with the whole
range of legal and rehabilitative issues associated with rape and violence against
"But we have a clear mandate... to protect the rights of women, and we are determined
to achieve that with the help of our NGO and other partners," she said.