Acid Victims Speak of Elusive Justice, Meet UK Ambassador

Ith Muoy Nheng’s chin has hardened into scar tissue since it was melted by acid two years ago, but finding justice remains an elusive and costly dream, she said yesterday.

Ms Muoy Nheng, 21, allegedly disfigured by her former boyfriend in Phnom Penh, acted in a play seen yesterday by British Ambas­sador Andrew Mace, who sat along­side about 50 women, men and children with skin scarred by acid at a shelter on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

In the performance, portraying the prosecution of an acid attack suspect, justice was found for Ms Muoy Nheng’s character with the court awarding her $20,000 compensation and sentencing her attacker to life in jail.

In reality, Ms Muoy Nheng ad­mits that such a result is just a dream.

“The result in reality and the result on stage is not the same. In reality, justice is not that easy to get,” Ms Muoy Nheng said. “I don’t think the police and court tried to find the criminal since I don’t have money to give them.”

Other scarred victims, who at­tended yesterday’s Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity bimonthly meeting for victims, said they did not believe their attackers would ever be brought to justice.

Acid attacks are currently being prosecuted as ordinary assaults but the government is drafting a new acid law that may include life sentences for the worst offenders. Nevertheless, reported attacks have risen compared to last year, according to CASC, which has re­corded 18 so far this year.

Mr Mace, who addressed victims yesterday, said he had come to help raise awareness of the consequences of the terrible crime and to help deter future attacks.

When asked what would be the point of the government introducing a new acid law given failings in the justice system, he replied, “Any law is only as good as its enforcement but it sends a strong signal to courts, to police if the government enacts a law specifically on this crime.”

Horng Lairapo, chief of program and legal units at CASC, said the current situation for acid attack victims was difficult, at best.

“Firstly the draft acid law is not yet finished. Secondly the court system is not fair and thirdly if high-ranking people are involved it is difficult to arrest perpetrators,” Dr Lairapo said.


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