When 32-year-old Jason Wootton moved to Cambodia with the intent of settling down for a few years, he could never have imagined experiencing something so horrifying that his family would plead with him to leave after only four months.
But on Wednesday, the Welshman was the victim of a seemingly random brick attack in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Keng Kang 1 commune. There was no clear motive, and his outlook on life in Phnom Penh has altered drastically.
Mr. Wootton was walking along Street 294 at the intersection of Norodom Boulevard with his dog on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. when two young men on a motorbike drove up to him, and the man on the back smashed a large lump of concrete into his face.
The blow was delivered with such force that the skin on Mr. Wootton’s forehead was torn through to his skull and blood began gushing from the wound.
“It was the most blood I’ve ever seen, and the hardest I’ve ever been hit,” said Mr. Wootton, who is also an avid rugby player.
A nearby security guard ran over to help and took him to the Royal Rattanak Hospital in Tuol Kok district, where he received 25 stitches. He also suffered a concussion.
“I’m staggered,” he said on Friday, as he came to terms with the attack that has left the left side of his face extremely swollen and bandaged up. “It could have been attempted murder—I could be dead. I nearly lost my eye.”
Mr. Wootton, who moved to Cambodia four months ago to set up a business, is obviously shaken from the experience, and hopes it is not a harbinger of future attacks.
In 2010, a spate of similar attacks, in which foreigners were bricked from passing SUVs and trucks, forced authorities to dispatch police along the riverside, where most of the attacks happened. The U.S. Embassy at the time issued a warning to tourists to be aware. The son of a high-ranking government official was believed to have been behind the attacks, which dissipated by the end of the year.
After two years of relative quiet for such attacks, Mr. Wootton said he could not imagine why he was targeted. The attack seemed random to him, because his assailants drove off immediately and made no attempt to steal anything.
According to Chamkar Mon district police chief Uch Sokhon, there have been no similar attacks reported in the area.
“I have not heard of any similar attacks in my district,” he said. “But if [Mr. Wootton] files a complaint to the police, we will investigate the case.”
(Additional reporting by Kaing Menghun)