Police in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district arrested three suspects Tuesday evening for allegedly pouring battery acid on a woman and her friend in a workplace dispute, marking the first reported acid attack of the year.
District penal police chief Kong Samorn said officers arrested Hav La, 23, her husband, Ne Phan Nith, 26, and his brother, Ne Phan Neth, 21, at their Chak Angre Krom commune apartment a few hours after the 8 pm attack.
“We learned about the suspects from the victim, who was still able to speak a little,” he said. “Police were able to identify two of the suspects from the burns on their face and hands because the acid had splashed back on them.”
According to Mr Samorn, Mr Phan Nith and his brother followed Seng Touch, 27, and Rin Soklim, 24, home from the Goldtex Garment factory after work, when Mr Phan Nith allegedly poured half a liter of acid over the two women.
Ms Soklim, who was driving and wearing a helmet, was recovering at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity with burns to her arms and legs, according to CASC spokeswoman Chhun Sophea.
Ms Touch, however, who worked with Mr Phan Nith at the factory and bore the brunt of the attack, remained bedridden at Calmette Hospital yesterday. Discolored skin covered the left side of her face and several spots on both arms. Her left eye was swollen nearly shut. Frail and covered to the neck by a bright orange blanket, Ms Touch said the acid had also severely burned her thighs.
“I am angry with the suspects,” she said. “I want the court to sentence them to jail for the rest of their lives.”
Ms Touch blamed the dispute on Ms La, Mr Phan Nith’s wife and a fellow co-worker. She said Ms La was jealous of her because a team leader at the factory had been favoring her.
Deatined at Meanchey District police station, Ms La said it was Ms Touch who was jealous of her and that the victim had repeatedly thrown clothing at her during numerous confrontations at the factory.
“Because the Chinese owner liked, she was jealous of me,” Ms La said.
But she denied knowing anything about her husband’s alleged plans to take revenge.
Mr Phan Nith confessed to attacking Ms Touch out of revenge.
“Even though I knew that my act was illegal I still did it because I was very angry,” he said. “I regret what I did but I cannot take it back. It is too late.”
For his part, Mr Phan Neth said he had agreed to drive his brother on a friend’s motorcycle but had no idea what he had planned.
Mr Samorn, the district penal police chief, said the trio would be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today to face charges.
According to the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, nearly 70 people were injured in 27 acid attacks that either occurred in 2010 or were recorded that year, a sharp increase from the 35 victims reported the year before.
The CASC’s Ms Sophea said a new acid law under draft already appeared to be deterring would-be attackers, with only one other reported attack since the government announced its plans to impose stiffer penalties on perpetrators late last year.
“Since they announced the drafting of the law…we have had only one [other] case,” she said.
As it stands, the law would impose prison sentences of 20 years to life on perpetrators and their accomplices. On Monday, Ouk Kimlek, deputy chairman of the government’s acid law committee, said the draft would arrive at the Council of Ministers for review later this month.