Hin Seng, 33, lay in Calmette Hospital yesterday fighting the pain from burns where acid splashed in his face and ran down his chest on Saturday morning. Mr Seng was admitted to the same ward as the victim of another acid attack, which occurred only three days earlier in the capital on Wednesday.
“It hurts so much. I can barely stand it. I never thought such a thing would happen to me,” Mr Seng said, with bandages wrapped around his forehead, chin and arms.
Two men on a motorcycle doused Mr Seng with about half a liter of acid in Russei Keo district’s Tuol Sangke commune while he and his co-worker Chhang Nab, 26, were driving to work at a construction site, Mr Seng said.
“They overtook us then slowed down and threw the acid on me…. When I took off my shirt, the skin came off as well,” he said, noting that the acid also splashed Mr Nab, who was riding as a passenger on his motorcycle.
Mr Seng said he did not know the attackers or their motives, but suspected that a former mistress might have tried to take revenge. Despite filing a complaint with the police on Saturday, Mr Seng said he did not hold out much hope of arrests. “The police might find them, but I have little hope.”
Huy Hean, Tuol Sangke commune police chief, said that the case was under investigation. “I questioned the victim in the morning, which gave us a lead,” Mr Hean said.
A nurse at Calmette Hospital who declined to be named said that Mr Seng suffered second-degree burns over 20 percent of his body.
This year at least ten acid attacks injuring 20 people have taken place in the capital alone, according to the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity. That figure is equal to two thirds of all acid attack injuries recorded nationwide last year.
Chhun Sophea, the charity’s public relations manager, said 21 attacks and 30 injuries had been recorded nationwide so far this year. An attack on Wednesday outside a factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district actually burned eight people, not four as originally believed, Ms Sophea said. Last year, the organization recorded 28 attacks, in which 33 people were injured; however some attacks recorded in 2009 may have occurred earlier.
“The attacks make it more urgent for us to push for the new law,” Ms Sophea said, noting that proposed regulation on the sale of acid was crucial. “If you take away the acid, attackers will not have it to hand…. If you can’t get hold of the weapon, it cannot be used.”
Ouk Kimlek, undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and deputy chairman of a committee to draft a new acid law, said that continued attacks prompted the drafting of the new law, which currently includes life sentences for the most serious offenders and will be sent to the National Assembly by the end of the year.
“We want to stop this crime. That is why we are creating this law. It is a serious crime,” he said.
Mathieu Pellerin, consultant at human rights group Licadho, said the number of acid attacks and their visibility in the news media had increased this year.
Attacks are numerous because offenders–including high-profile ones such as fugitive former military police deputy chief of staff Chea Ratha, convicted on appeal in November for an acid attack on the aunt of her former lover–have long gone unpunished, Mr Pellerin said, noting that few attackers are charged with ordinary assault or attempted murder under the current law.
“The new law will look good on paper but have little impact,” he said.
Acid attack victim Mr Seng said he was not pressing for harsher sentencing under the law, but just hoping to stay alive.
“I am fearful that the acid might get to my bones or make me die,” he said.