Police in Phnom Penh are searching for a man who splashed his wife with battery acid in a fit of jealous rage on Monday night, causing her to suffer severe burns to the face and neck, police said on Tuesday.
The incident, the first reported acid attack of the year, occurred inside the couple’s house in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey commune at about 8:30 p.m. after the 23-year-old victim returned home from her job at a garment factory, according to commune chief Mao Savoeun.
“Sum Sokny was injured from her face down to her left shoulder. She told us it was her husband,” Mr. Savoeun said, adding that her husband, 27-year-old construction worker Nget Phally, fled the scene and remains at large.
At Calmette Hospital on Tuesday, Ms. Sokny said she and her husband had been fighting regularly since he accused her last month of cheating on him.
“In early January, we had a fight in which he accused me of having a love affair with another person…. He beat me up violently, and he kept accusing me of having other love affairs,” she said.
When the topic again arose on Monday night, Ms. Sokny said, she refused to speak to her husband, causing him to fly into a rage.
“Then, he took a bucket that was used to water flowers and splashed me with it,” she said. “I did not think it was acid, but after about three or four minutes, I was burning and shouted for help.”
Ms. Sokny sustained second-degree burns to her face and neck and will have scarring when the wounds heal, according to a doctor’s report seen at the hospital.
Srun Borin, a commune police officer who was part of the team that inspected the scene of the attack on Monday, said investigators had recovered two bottles of battery acid—one of which was empty—from the couple’s home.
“Police found one bucket and two bottles of acid—but the suspect only used one,” Mr. Borin said. “He escaped immediately after pouring acid on the victim.”
Mr. Borin said police were searching for Mr. Phally using a photograph of him provided by Ms. Sokny.
While the number of reported acid attacks has decreased in recent years—a 2012 Acid Law imposes harsh penalties on perpetrators while a 2013 sub-decree aimed at regulating the sale of acid—they continue to plague the country, according to Erin Bourgois, a former project manager at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity.
“This is the first reported case since November 2015,” she said, adding that Ms. Sokny’s case bore similarities to many in the past.
“Most attacks aim to disfigure and maim someone, and we’ve seen that in many cases they have been motivated by perceived infidelity,” she said.
There were four reported acid attacks last year—resulting in one fatality—down from a high of 20 attacks in 2010, according to Ms. Bourgois.
(Additional reporting by Tej Parikh)
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that there were three fatalities from acid attacks last year. There was one.