Cambodia’s Ending Acid Violence Research and Advocacy Project is a project facilitated by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) aimed at ending acid violence and the culture of impunity that surrounds it through fact and evidence based research and advocacy.
The objectives of the Project are to (1) provide basic understanding of the situation of acid violence in Cambodia and steps required to end it, (2) create societal understanding of the effects of acid violence and (3) conduct dialogue and advocacy towards the formulation and application of a law that deals effectively with the issue of acid violence.
An acid attack is an act where perpetrators throw or pour acid on the victims, usually their faces, mostly not to kill but to maim, disfigure or torture. The consequences of these attacks include blindness, permanent scarring of the face and body, and at times severe disabilities. Not only do victims suffer physically but psychologically, with acid victims often excluded from mainstream society.
According to Cambodian Acid Survivor Charity (CASC) in 2009, there were 28 acid violence cases recorded with 33 victims and for year 2010, 19 attacks plus 3 accidents and 1 suicide attempt leaving some 40 victims. Its most recent progress report for the period January to June 2011 shows 6 recorded cases of acid violence and 3 accidental burns, with 15 victims.
In May 2010, CCHR together with CASC published a report on the situation of acid violence in Cambodia entitled Breaking the Silence: Acid Violence in Cambodia. It noted that in Cambodia, acid attacks are usually a consequence of, or a perceived means of settling, interpersonal disputes, with the majority of reported attacks appearing to have resulted from family or personal relationship problems. Business and land disputes are other leading motivations. However, in many cases motivations are unclear and perpetrators unidentified. The report also noted that attacks on women were commensurate to those on men.
One of the most urgent issues with regards to acid violence that needs to be addressed is that of impunity: perpetrators of acid violence regularly escape prosecution and conviction for their crimes. Since 1990, only a few acid crimes have been brought to court, and where this has been the case, the sentences that have been imposed have not reflected the severity of the crime.
In 2010, the Royal Government of Cambodia established a special committee tasked with examining the situation of acid violence in Cambodia and drafting a law to address the situation of acid violence in Cambodia. The CCHR and CASC report noted that this law should address four key areas - access to acid, impunity, provision of post-emergency facilities to victims and public perception.
The Project is designed to carry on the work that has been started with the Breaking the Silence Report to end the culture of impunity surrounding acid violence through:
- Research and analysis: By building on research already completed, CCHR will continue to provide a basis for understanding the situation of acid violence in Cambodia and the steps required to end it. As part of work to understand the situation of acid violence in Cambodia, CCHR will map acid attack cases and display these interactively on Human Rights Portal, Sithi.org.
- Public Education: CCHR will work with other stakeholders and civil society organizations, including CASC, on increasing societal understanding of the effect of acid violence. This will include education about the implication of the injuries caused by acid, importance of safe practice regarding acid, the serious punitive measures that will be taken and ways to solve conflicts though non-violent means.
- Dialogue and Advocacy: CCHR will undertake dialogue and advocacy towards the formulation and application of a law that deals effectively with the issue of acid violence. As part of this work, the project will monitor acid violence cases to see how these cases are handled by the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. The outcome of this monitoring will help inform reform within the judicial system of Cambodia and other rule of law agencies in the context of acid violence.
The target beneficiaries of the research and analysis, and dialogue and advocacy are the legislative, executive and judiciary branches, NGOs and CSOs, and the ordinary people in ensuring the enactment of effective legislation and the due implementation of such legislation. The target audience of the public education element is the general public through increasingtheir awareness of the effects of acid violence and changing their perceptions towards acid attack victims.