A Kompong Cham judge has given a woman disfigured in an acid attack after an affair with a high-ranking military officer visitation rights to the couple’s child—but some observers Wednesday expressed concern the ruling was purely rhetorical and visitation could not be guaranteed in a case they say typifies Cambodia’s culture of “second wives” and revenge maimings.
Judge Tith Sothy ruled Tuesday that Son Rasmey, 22, should be allowed visitation rights to her 2-year-old girl for one week out of each month. The judge added, however, that it was not the court’s role to decide where and when the child could be seen or how the law should be implemented.
In essence, the verdict was an empty victory for Son Rasmey, observers said.
“The judge was prepared to implement the law but didn’t make specific how that would happen,” Larissa Wakim, an aid worker who observed the trial, said. “He could have [mandated], but instead gave a hollow order. The chance of her seeing her kids is small.”
Other observers present at the trial said that since the colonel lives in a remote military compound near the Lao border that is impregnable by NGOs, it is doubtful that Son Rasmey will be given access to the child.
Son Rasmey, a former “Remy Martin girl” became embroiled in an affair with Lim Sok Heng, an air force colonel, after they met at a restaurant where she worked. The couple had a child together.
When the colonel’s wife, Minh Rinath, learned of the affair, she hired four cronies to subdue Son Rasmey as she poured hydrochloric acid over the Son Rasmey’s face and torso. Minh Rinath confessed to the crime but has not faced any jail time.
Lim Sok Heng and Minh Rinath were not present at the trial, but were represented by a private lawyer.
The whereabouts of the girl and whether the two live together remain unclear.
Tith Sothy provoked the ire of Human Rights monitoring groups last December when, in the criminal trial of the same case, he refused to convict Minh Rinath of attempted manslaughter or even misdemeanor assault. Minh Rinath was released without spending any time in jail. Tith Sothy told reporters Minh Rinath deserved leniency because she had been jilted by her husband.
As Tuesday’s hearing began, the judge asked Son Rasmey to stand, and then let loose a 10-minute diatribe directed at the Voice Of America and US citizens, observers said.
US citizens are “stupid,” “weak” and “impolite,” and, he added, they do not know Cambodian laws or customs.
Tith Sothy later said he felt VOA reports on the case were biased.
Speaking in an interview Wednesday, the judge said Son Rasmey can visit her daughter, and he is willing to mediate any disputes and might even confiscate the girl if his visitation decision is not met.
Meas Sokunthea, the CDP lawyer who represented Son Rasmey, said he “appreciates the decision because it was not a verdict, but rather an emergency decision to give a mother a chance to see her children and the court granted us what we requested.”
Only time will tell whether Son Rasmey will be able to see her daughter, the lawyer said.