Wanted as the suspected ringleader in a May acid attack, Chea Ratha, who recently was removed as national military police deputy chief of staff, claimed Sunday that she is innocent.
Ya Soknim, 35, suffered disfiguring injuries in the May 6 attack and had to have an ear and an eye removed by doctors in Vietnam. The victim’s family members previously accused Chea Ratha of threatening them with violence following a lover’s quarrel with Ya Soknim’s niece, In Solyda.
Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location in Thailand, Chea Ratha admitted she was in a serious relationship with In Solyda, but denied that she had participated in or orchestrated the acid attack on her partner’s aunt.
“I did not know that an acid attack happened on Ya Soknim,” she said. “In Solyda and I had fallen in love as a couple several years ago, and we prayed to live together forever and ever.”
Multiple attempts to contact In Solyda since the attack have been unsuccessful, and her family has previously stated that she has gone into hiding.
Chea Ratha said Sunday that she flew to China on May 8, two days after the attack, to see doctors about a liver ailment and decided to fly to Thailand after hearing that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had issued a warrant for her arrest.
“I rejected to return to Cambodia when I got information that the court issued an arrest warrant,” Chea Ratha said, adding that she is still in love with In Solyda.
She said she did not know why the court considered her a suspect in the case or why Interpol, which has issued a red notice internationally for Chea Ratha’s arrest, was involved in the search for her.
“I want the Interpol police to take off my picture and the red notice everywhere they sent it to,” she said.
Chea Ratha said the attack could have been committed by men jealous of the couple’s relationship.
“We were sometimes very jealous and suspicious because In Solyda is a beautiful girl whom boys could fall in love with,” she said.
According to copies of warrants issued by the municipal court, Mas Mao, 40, Chan Dara, 34, and Seak Chandy, 37, all of whom were identified as Chea Ratha’s bodyguards, are also wanted in connection to the acid attack. Authorities have already charged Chea Ratha’s former assistant, municipal penal police officer Ear Puthea, in the attack.
Police also closed two nightclubs belonging to Chea Ratha in Daun Penh district May 18.
Chea Ratha said the three wanted men worked for the closed nightclubs but added that they were not her bodyguards. Chea Ratha said she did not run the nightclubs, but rather rented them to an individual she declined to name.
Ek Cheng Huot, deputy prosecutor for the municipal court, said Sunday that the case had been passed on to Investigating Judge Suon Samnang, who could not be reached for comment. Police and local Interpol officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.