The committee drafting a law on the management and use of acid will hold its first meeting later this month, according to Interior Ministry Secretary of State Teng Savong, who will head the committee.
According to an Interior Ministry decision of Jan 28, the committee created by Interior Minister Sar Kheng consists of 11 ministry officials.
“I am first thinking about an action plan on what and how [the committee] should start,” said Mr Savong. “Because so far we don’t have basic documents or paperwork to look into [acid laws]. It is really new, new work.”
While the committee is mandated to draft a law on acid use and distribution with the help of friendly countries, the documents give no timeline nor is the committee mandated to prepare a specific law punishing offenders for attacks with acid.
Acid survivor support groups say that a specific law is key to stopping horrendous attacks with acid, which have become almost a weekly occurrence in Cambodia, and one even used by powerful officials and their relatives to exact revenge on their enemies.
Mr Savong, however, said that his committee will first look at import controls on acid and then draft a law or sub-decree to that end.
Most acid attacks, however, are currently perpetrated with acids that are easily purchased openly in markets throughout the country.
Mr Savong has been a frequent appointee to committees such as those still investigating the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally and the assassination of the much-loved Khmer classical dancer Piseth Peaklica in July 1999. Neither committee has yet published conclusions into either crime.
Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the human rights organization Licadho, said yesterday that the person in charge of the committee must not be overcommitted, as there are only 24 hours in a day.
Noting that the issue of acid attacks was debated but left out of the domestic violence law enacted in 2005 and was also then left out of the recent draft penal code draft, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday by phone that prevention alone was not enough to stop the acid crimes.
“A law that doesn’t punish is a start, but a start with an end,” she said of the committee’s starting point, adding that acid was the most inhumane of crimes as it damages a victim’s life beyond repair.
The social phenomenon of using easy-to-buy acid as a weapon has seen three people report attacks in the last month alone.