On Anniversary of an Infamous Acid Attack, Justice Still Elusive

Three years ago today, Ya Sok­nim was doused with acid—her head and chest severely bur­ned, her neck temporarily paralyzed. Doctors in Vietnam removed her eye and ear. Within days, former military police commander Chea Ratha was fingered as the ringleader of the attack targeting the aunt of her estranged lover, In Solyda.

In November 2008, the court found her guilty; a conviction later upheld by the Supreme Court. In total, six were convicted in con­­junction with the attack, and given 15- to 18-year jail sentences each.

But three years after the attack, the police appear to be no closer to having apprehended the fugitives and the family still continues to live in fear.

Om Sam Ath, Licadho investigator, said this week that Ms Solyda, Ms Soknim and her husband had fled Cambodia. They lived in Ma­laysia briefly, and are now seeking asylum elsewhere, though he would not say where.

“The criminal has to be punished by the rule of law, but there is no arrest, no jail. It makes the victim’s family more afraid. There are many other cases happening where the criminal is not arrested,” said Mr Sam Ath, noting that the lack of punishment in such a high-profile case made many nervous.

Phnom Penh municipal police chief Touch Naruth could not be reached for comment Wednesday or yesterday. Deputy military police chief Pong Saorith refused to comment on the case, saying only that police were still working to find the fugitives.

Multiple calls and e-mails to Major General Keo Vannthan, di­rector of Cambodia’s Interpol office, went unanswered this week. Ms Ratha, along with three of her accomplices, is still listed by In­terpol as “wanted.”

Mu Sochua, opposition lawmaker, said yesterday that the lack of movement in tracking down the fugitives was demonstrative of a “cul­ture of impunity.”

“It’s total impunity. It’s a system that needs to be reformed with true, political will,” she said.  “There’s no excuse, there’s totally no excuse.”

    (Additional reporting by Abby Seiff)


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