A top municipal police official said Thursday it likely will be difficult to apprehend the top suspect in a Dec 6 acid attack because influential friends in Phnom Penh would help her remain free.
Lek Vannak, the city’s judicial police chief, said Khun Sophal, the wife of Cabinet Undersecretary of State Svay Sitha, has powerful allies.
“If she stays overseas we will be able to arrest her. But if she stays here it will not be easy because she has [powerful] friends….Overseas it will be easier to arrest than in [Cambodia],” said Lek Vannak, noting that Interpol could provide assistance if the suspect is abroad.
Police say they do not know her whereabouts.
Khun Sophal has been accused by authorities of dousing 18-year-old Tang Samarina with nitric acid in a daylight attack near Olympic Market. At least three eye-witnesses have provided statements, according to Tep Kum, Chamkar Mon district’s top investigator. Police say jealousy was the motive.
Lek Vannak said he received the warrant to arrest Khun Sophal on Thursday from the Municipal Court. The court has charged the suspect with attempted murder, investigating judge Mong Mony Chakriya said this week at his office.
Two men who allegedly helped Khun Sophal during the attack remain unidentified and warrants have not been issued for their arrests, according to Tep Kum and Seng Vanna, the chief of staff for Municipal Police.
Authorities do not know the names of the two men, referred to as bodyguards, Tep Kum and Seng Vanna said.
“The two accomplices must be arrested also but we do not know about their personal background yet,” Seng Vanna said Thursday.
Court and police officials have blamed each other for the slow pace of investigative and legal developments since the Dec 6 afternoon attack.
Chhin Chiva, acting director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Dec 19 that he was baffled police did not make arrests immediately after the attack but took a “dozen days” to file the case with the courts.
Chamkar Mon District Police Chief Lok Lon has defended the slow handling of the case, claiming the investigation was hampered by a high-ranking police official who prevented district police from detaining a four-door car left at the scene of the crime by the attackers.
Ang Eng Thong, director of the Bar Association of Cambodia, said Thursday that blame lay with both police and court officials who seem to want to avoid the responsibility of arresting the wife of a government official.
“Prosecutors and police are responsible for her escape. If the prosecutors and police did their work she could not have gone to a foreign country,” said Ang Eng Thong.
Ang Eng Thong said the incompetence by authorities in such a high-profile case was an invitation for people to commit crimes.
Kim Channee, director of Cambodia’s Interpol department, said Thursday that Municipal Police have yet to contact him for international assistance.