Acid Suspect Still At Large

Police still have been unable to locate the woman accused of dumping acid on a 16-year-old karaoke video performer in December, but an arrest will be made as soon as the woman is found, Municipal Penal Police Chief Khuon Sophon pledged Thursday.

Khuon Sophal, wife of Council of Ministers Undersecretary Svay Sitha, has been implicated in the Dec 5 acid attack on Tat Marina, with whom Svay Sitha was having a relationship, according to police. The municipal court issued a warrant for Khoun Sophal’s arrest and gave it to police in December.

“We could not find her, but we are still investigating,” Khuon Sophon said.

Khuon Sophal is not in Svay Sitha’s house, Khuon Sophon said, though he would not say whether police have searched the house, which he said is under constant surveillance.

Authorities first thought Khuon Sophol had fled the country, but now believe she is living in Phnom Penh under someone’s protection, possibly the wife of a high-ranking official.

Sim Hong, the municipal military police chief, said he has not been given an arrest warrant for Khuon Sophal. “If I have a warrant, I will arrest her,” he said.

General Khieu Sopheak, Min­istry of Interior spokes­man,  referred questions to municipal police, saying the ministry was not involved in the investigation.

Tat Marina was at a noodle stand near Olympic Market when she was thrown to the ground, beaten  unconscious by at least one man and doused with nitric acid by Khuon Sophal, according to police, witnesses and family members. Police say two bodyguards also are suspects, but  say they have been unable to identify them.

The karaoke video performer and model is recovering from the attack which burned her head, face, back, shoulders and arms, but doctors say she will be permanently disfigured.

The lack of an arrest in such a case, and the perception that the government is protecting its own, has wide-ranging effects, said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development.

“The government has problems implementing the law and enforcing it because of the lack of trust in the leadership,” she said.

If people do not believe in the government to enforce its laws, people handle problems themselves, she said, citing the many recent cases of mobs beating thieves to death.

“People no longer trust what the government says,” Chea Vannath said. “The government says everyone is equal before the law, but their actions do not support what they say.”



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