The following story is reprinted from the Toronto Star, Saturday, December 2, 2000.
Acid attacks rise in Cambodia - Robin McDowell Associated Press
PHNOM PENH - In Cambodia, awash in weapons after decades of war, there are plenty of ways to take revenge.
But acid seems to have replaced grenades in popularity. The aim is not to kill but to strip a woman of her beauty.
And unlike other countries where acid-burning is usually done by men, in Cambodia some two-thirds of attacks are perpetrated by women.
"I have little hope for anything now," whispers 17-year-old Tat Somarina, a former model and karaoke video star who was doused with nitric acid last year by the wife of a government official she had been seeing for two years.
Doctors and human rights workers count at least 20 copycat attacks since Somarina's, and they say that many more probably have gone unreported.
For girls, who don't get equal access to education, beauty is often the only ticket to a comfortable life in Cambodia, and bigamy, once discouraged, has become commonplace among the male elite.
Somarina now lives with her brother in Lynn, Mass. Her face is deformed and scarred. She will endure years of treatment at the Shriners Hospital in Boston, but has little hope of regaining her former looks.
Witnesses say five or six men descended on her, kicking and knocking her unconscious, then a woman poured nitric acid over Somarina's head.
The woman has been identified but there have been no arrests. There rarely are.
"A small number of perpetrators are being punished, but mainly the poor with no connections," says Eva Galabru of the human rights group Licadho in Phnom Penh.
Seven years ago, in response to feminist laws against using female beauty in ads here in Canada, I wrote:
Acid attacks prove that you can't attack female beauty without attacking beautiful women. They are hatred of beauty example #678,779,659.