A man arrested Saturday in connection with an acid attack on a Phnom Penh woman has been charged with the illegal use of a weapon, a crime punishable by six months to three years in prison, officials said Tuesday.
Police revealed Tuesday that 34-year-old Ear Puthea, formerly a municipal police officer assistant to Deputy Military Police Chief of Staff Chea Ratha, had been arrested on suspicion of attacking a woman in Chamkar Mon district with acid.
Municipal police Chief Touch Naruth said Wednesday that more information about the case would be forthcoming after authorities complete their investigations into the attack.
“I know the suspect who was arrested used to be an assistant to Chea Ratha when she was deputy municipal police chief,” Touch Naruth said. Touch Naruth did not answer questions as to whether Ear Puthea was still a police officer.
Military Police Commander Sao Sokha said he had no time to comment. An assistant, who declined to be named, said Chea Ratha was outside Cambodia.
Family members of the victim have accused a senior official of threatening them with violence following a lovers’ quarrel with a member of their family.
Deputy Municipal Prosecutor Ek Cheng Huot said Wednesday that Ear Puthea had been charged Tuesday and ordered detained at Prey Sar prison pending trial. He declined to explain the charges or answer questions about other potential suspects.
Despite calls from campaigners and medical staff working with acid attack victims, there is no law in Cambodia to specifically punish acid attackers, who often leave their victims blinded, hideously scarred and maimed for life.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said a charge of intentional injury under the Untac-era penal code would have better fit the nature of the alleged crime. The charge, however, carries a lesser potential penalty of six months to two years in prison, he said.
“In this case, the court must charge the suspect with intentional injury,” he said. “I think it is an incorrect charge.”