Acid-Attack Novelist Granted Refuge in Norway

A Cambodian novelist whose niece was horribly disfigured in a notorious acid attack in Phnom Penh and who wrote a “fictionalized” account of the events has been granted refugee status in Norway.

Kong Bun Chhoeun, uncle of former karaoke video star Tat Marina, has been living in self-exile in Bangkok since his best-selling book, “Fate of Tat Ma­ri­na,” was published in 2000.

Tat Marina’s face, head, hands and back were disfigured in late 1999 after she was doused with acid in an attack that was branded an act of revenge by the jealous wife of a high-ranking government official.

Police confirmed Tuesday that no one has been tried—or yet arrested—for the attack, though Khoun Sophal, wife of Council of Minister’s official Svay Sitha, was initially charged with the crime by police officials and an arrest war­rant was issued.

“This case was taken out of the police’s jurisdiction and passed on to the court,” said Muong Khim, Phnom Penh first deputy police chief. “As far as I know, [Khoun Sophal] has yet to be arrested,” he said on Tuesday.

Chhay Saroeun, Tat Marina’s mother, said her daughter is now living safely in the US and that she has stopped dwelling on the incident.

“I stopped thinking about this bitter tragedy that Tat Marina suffered,” she said Tuesday. “The small people always get abuse from ignorant, big people. No justice is given to Tat Marina be­cause the court is so corrupt.”

After Kong Bun Chhoeun’s book came out, he and his family fled the country to live in Bang­kok under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, citing threats to their lives.

The novelist and nine extended family members have recently been granted refugee status in Nor­way and will leave Bangkok in March, his son-in-law Muth Thary said.

Kong Bun Chhoeun would rather live in Cambodia but does not feel safe, Muth Thary said on Tues­day.

“He still would prefer to come back,” he said, “But he still feels scared to live here…. The time will come for him to return.”


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