Phnom Penh: Cambodia`s lower house of
parliament on Friday approved a long-awaited law aimed at curbing
acid attacks by imposing sentences ranging from two years to
life in prison.
The legislation, expected to be approved by the senate
and the king later this year, also regulates the licensing and
sale of the caustic liquid, which is currently widely and
cheaply available in the country.
"The law will prevent acid offences," Teng Savong,
secretary of state at the interior ministry and director of
the acid law committee, said.
Acid attacks are a common form of revenge in the
impoverished Southeast Asian nation and campaigners have long
called for harsh punishments for perpetrators who have so far
rarely faced justice.
"Today marks an important step towards addressing acid
violence in Cambodia," said Ziad Samman, project manager of
the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC), which looks after
acid burn victims.
But he said he was disappointed with the minimum sentence
under the new law, which he said did not "reflect the nature
of this barbaric crime."
"If a perpetrator is sentenced to only two years in
prison, they may be able to complete their prison sentence
before the acid burn survivor has completed their medical
treatment," he said.
While there are no official statistics and many cases go
unreported, CASC recorded 287 acid attacks between 1984 and
2011, injuring more than 300 people.
In the first nine months of this year, the charity
recorded 10 attacks that burned 16 people.
Until now, acid convictions have been extremely few and
far between in Cambodia, with CASC saying that 90 per cent of
its cases have not gone to court.
In the few cases where perpetrators have been found
guilty, "we generally see sentences ranging from two to four
years," he said.