Newly appointed adviser to Hun Sen was convicted in 2008 acid attack

Former deputy military police chief was sentenced to 18 years in prison – but has never been arrested.
By RFA Khmer
2024.02.28
Newly appointed adviser to Hun Sen was convicted in 2008 acid attack Despite being convicted in the acid attack on Ya Soknim, former deputy military police chief Chea Ratha has never spent time in prison. She is seen in an undated photo.
(Oum Sam An via Facebook)

A former top military police official who was found guilty 15 years ago in an acid attack that disfigured a victim’s face has been appointed as an adviser to former Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Former deputy military police chief Chea Ratha and five accomplices were sentenced in absentia to 18 years in prison by Cambodia’s Appeals Court after a lower court’s not guilty verdict was reversed.

The six suspects were accused of attacking Ya Sok Nim, the aunt of beauty queen In Solida, who was reportedly Chea Ratha’s lover, according to Voice of America. Ya Sok Nim’s face was disfigured in the 2008 attack, while In Solida was unharmed.

In Solida said she was forced into a relationship with Chea Ratha until she finally refused, Voice of America reported. Chea Ratha has never been arrested or spent any time in prison. 

The permanent committee of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, approved the appointment, according to a decision signed by Hun Sen on Feb. 23.

ENG_KHM_HunSenAdviser_02282024.2.jpeg
Acid attack victim Ya Soknim, left, and her niece, In Solida, attend a news conference in Phnom Penh, Sept. 2, 2009. (Kim Peou/RFA)

Hun Sen, 71, stepped down as prime minister last August after decades in power, but he remains president of the CPP and is expected to be named president of the Senate in the coming weeks. 

CPP spokesman Sok Ey San told Radio Free Asia that Chea Ratha’s appointment is private. He refused to elaborate. 

‘Perpetrators rarely go to prison’

Acid attacks have been a common occurrence in Cambodia for several decades as a way for people to “inflict pain, permanently scar, or kill” romantic rivals or spurned lovers, Human Rights Watch said in a 2019 report

The report noted that even though lawmakers passed legislation in 2012 to provide health care and legal support to victims and to curb the availability of acid, “perpetrators rarely go to prison and victims rarely receive adequate health care or meaningful compensation.”

In October, Svay Sitha – a top government adviser whose wife has long been suspected in an infamous acid attack on his teenage lover – was named chairman of a committee that promotes positive news coverage of Prime Minister Hun Manet’s government.

While the CPP has the right to appoint whoever it wants, they should be mindful that people in high positions should be generally respected or have made some kind of positive contribution to the country, said Am Sam Ath of human rights group Licadho.

“If someone has been convicted, he or she should be rehabilitated first before the appointment is made,” he said. 

Naming Chea Ratha as an adviser isn’t surprising, though, said Men Nath, a Norway-based representative of the Cambodia Watchdog Council.

“It’s not just Chea Ratha who has been appointed,” he said. “There are many other criminals. Hun Sen is surrounded by those criminals.”

Military police spokesman Eng Hy and Chea Ratha couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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