A 20-year-old woman suffered serious burns to her face and body after being doused with acid in Phnom Penh on Friday in an attack allegedly carried out by a jealous wife who suspected the victim was sleeping with her husband.
Meas Vanny, a security guard at the Ho Hsin Tai shoe factory on Veng Sreng Street, had just left her rented apartment in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao commune at about 5:30 a.m. when she was approached by a woman holding a bucket, according to deputy commune police chief Sao Sarith.
“When the victim left the house a woman asked: Where do you work and what is your job?”
Mr. Sarith said the suspect initially walked away after Ms. Vanny answered, before attacking her further down the street.
“The victim walked about 100 meters, then the suspect returned from behind and threw acid in the victim’s face and seriously injured her,” he said.
He said that after speaking to Ms. Vanny and conducting brief investigations, police questioned Chun Khoeun, 32, a fellow security guard at the factory, who told them that he was having an affair with the victim. His wife, 38-year-old garment worker Sroeun Nann, was swiftly arrested after her husband’s admissions but denied that she was involved in a revenge attack.
“When we finished the questioning of Mr. Khoeun, we went to detain Ms. Nann at her work [as] it might be the case of a love triangle…. Mr. Khoeun said he would go to sleep with the victim at her house,” Mr. Sarith said.
Speaking from her bed in Calmette Hospital, Ms. Vanny, who was unable to see as a result of her injuries and has burns covering her face and body, said she initially had no idea of the motive but later learned of the arrest.
“I knew nothing, a woman just asked me some questions and then returned and threw acid on me,” Ms. Vanny said.
“I knew a man for two months, but I didn’t know if he had a wife or not,” she added.
The victim’s sister, Meas Ratanak—who found her younger sibling screaming in pain—said she suspected that the jealous wife was to blame.
“I was working this morning and I heard [my sister] yelling to people for help,” Ms. Ratanak said.
“Now I feel very sad; I think the suspect did this because of the love triangle,” she said, adding that Mr. Khoeun told her sister that he loved her and that he was divorced.
In January 2012, the government passed a law on acid attacks, which was followed by a sub-decree regulating the sale of acid a year later.
The Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, an organization offering services including counseling, vocational training and reconstructive surgery to victims, then rolled back its operations last year after seeing a dramatic drop in the number of acid attacks.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said Friday’s acid attack was the first recorded this year and that it illustrated the importance of implementing the Acid Law.
“Authorities should restrict more people selling acid; if they demand it then the sellers will respond,” he said.