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Ministry slams HRW over report on acid victims

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Srey Mom and her child were treated after an acid attack. KT/Mai Vireak

The Justice Ministry yesterday hit back at US-based Human Rights Watch over a report accusing the government of failing to provide free medical treatment for victims of acid attacks or take action against perpetrators.

HRW on Monday issued a 48-page report titled “What Hell Feels Like: Acid Violence in Cambodia”, saying that survivors of acid violence in the country were deprived of free medical care, as stipulated by law, and also face pressure to accept inadequate settlements.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said that the report was politically motivated to allege that Cambodia’s law enforcement was weak, noting that it had no clear methodology for its inferences.

“I can assume that the report had no methodology to back its claims and was used to attack the Cambodian government,” he said, “We have no idea who they [HRW] interviewed and what questions they asked… I think the report was made up purely to discredit the government.”

Mr Malin observed that the report lacked participation from government officials and that only a few unidentified people were interviewed, making it incomplete.

In its report, HRW said that many survivors of acid attacks are unable to get adequate healthcare and meaningful compensation and that those responsible for the attacks are rarely prosecuted.

The report noted that the government in 2012 passed the Law on Regulating Concentrated Acid to curb the availability of acid used in attacks and to provide medical care and legal support to victims.

It said since the passage of the law, acid attacks have dropped and regulations have reduced the availability of acid, but state hospitals failed to provide medical care free of charge for acid attack survivors.

“No survivors interviewed by HRW had received free treatment. Rather, they described being denied treatment until they could provide out-of-pocket payments or could show proof that they could pay,” the report said.

In the report, HRW Asia director Brad Adams said the government took an important step with the Acid Law by making clear promises to survivors of acid violence.

“The government’s failure to enforce the law outside Phnom Penh, hold attackers accountable, or ensure adequate treatment and compensation for victims has left those promises unfulfilled – with consequences that last a lifetime,” he said.

The report also said corruption and negligence by the police have a chilling effect on victims reporting cases just like women are discouraged from reporting cases of domestic violence fearing further attacks from perpetrators.

Tan Sokun, Preah Kossamak Hospital director, yesterday dismissed the report saying that victims of acid attacks are given priority treatment under recent reforms and state hospital managements monitor their progress.

“HWR must reveal the evidence it has for the allegation; otherwise, it’s useless,” he said. “Generally, payments for state hospital treatment are borne by individuals, the state and the hospital itself.”

“Poor people need to obtain a Social Welfare card to prove their status so that they can get free treatment,” he added.

The Cambodian Acid Survivor’s Charity reported last year that acid attacks in the Kingdom have declined in recent years, with only six reported cases in 2014 compared with 36 in 2010.

It credited the decline to the stringent Law on Regulating Concentrated Acid, which was passed in 2012 and lays out harsh penalties for a variety of crimes related to the malicious use of acid.

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