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Official Blames Wife in 1999 Acid Attack

Svay Sitha, a senior official in the powerful Council of Ministers, put the blame of a 1999 acid attack on his now ex-wife, saying the disfiguring attack on Tat Marina, who is profiled in a new US documentary, should never have happened.

Svay Sitha said through a spokesman that he was a “victim” of his former wife, Khuon Sophal, “and he did not have any intention to create such an incident.”

“It was his wife who victimized him,” the spokesman, Phay Siphan, said.

Tat Marina, who is featured in the film, “Finding Face,” was paralyzed and nearly killed in the acid attack. She now lives in the US with members of her family.

The admission comes as “Finding Face” is set to screen in Portland, Or., on Sunday.

Tat Marina was doused with nitric acid while eating porridge at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market on Dec. 5, 1999. After the attack, Svay Sitha was seen trying to get her treatment. He stayed briefly with her while she was sent for treatment in the US. They have then severed contact, according to Tat Marina’s brother, Tat Sequndo.

“He came to the US once, and for his trip here I don’t think he meant to continue his sweet love,” Tat Sequndo told VOA Khmer. “He was here to make sure that we didn’t file a complaint against his wife.”

Khuon Sophal could not be reached for comment; Phay Siphan said she received a five-year suspended sentence for the attack. He did not elaborate on the details of the court proceedings, and Phnom Penh police officials said they were unaware of it.

“This happened long time ago,” said Touch Naroth, chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Police. “It was before I became the police commissioner. I don’t know what the court’s decision is now. I have not much knowledge of the case.”

Court officials said to have handled the case could not be reached for comment Friday, no independent sources were able to confirm Svay Sitha’s divorce.