A 25-year-old woman accused of dousing her ex-boyfriend and his fiancee with acid as they gave her a ride home, sending both to the hospital with severe burns, has been arrested in the first reported acid attack of the year, Phnom Penh police said on Tuesday.
Kea Samnang, 23, and his fiancee, Sa Sokha, 18, had been working at their food stall outside a school in Sen Sok district’s Phnom Penh Thmei commune when Mr. Samnang’s former girlfriend, Pach Chansereiroth, 25, approached them at about 5 p.m. on Monday, district police chief Mok Hong said.
“This is a love triangle, because the suspect was jealous her ex-boyfriend became engaged to another woman,” he said.
The woman took a bottle of acid from her handbag and poured it over Ms. Sokha’s face, splashing Mr. Samnang’s back and chest, while they were driving her home on a motorbike, Mr. Hong said. “The suspect has a good-sounding name, a pretty face, a lovely face, but her heart is cruel.”
Commune police officials, alerted by a relative of Mr. Samnang, arrested the suspect at the scene, he said. She was being detained ahead of a court appearance in the coming days.
The victims were taken to the Sen Sok International University Hospital and then transferred to the Preah Kossamak Hospital’s burn center.
The couple, lying beside each other and flanked by relatives, said they were angry.
Ms. Sokha, wearing a set of pink pajamas and facial bandages that covered everything except her left eye, said her face felt hot as the liquid quickly ate into her skin and facial tissue, causing it to stretch and change color.
She said the attack had left her feeling timid and unsure of how people would respond to her appearance.
“They will look at me and think about me in bad ways,” she said. “I feel worried about my future. I feel shy because the scar on my face will be there forever. I want the doctor to treat my skin so it will recover as normal.”
Say Bunnavath, a doctor who treated the couple at Preah Kossamak Hospital, said the victims appeared well, but their conditions were volatile. “This wound, as it is, would rarely impact the victim’s life, but in the future the wound might evolve,” he said. “We are still waiting to see.”
Saran Komsath, a spokesman for the national police, said the number of reported acid attacks had dropped from five cases in 2015 to three last year, including one death. Two of those cases had resulted in successful prosecution, he said, while a third attacker was still at large.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Saran Komsath was a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. His name was also misspelled.