Acid attack victim finally sees hope for future

by John Einar Sandvand on March 5, 2009

She was one of Cambodia’s most beautiful “whisky girls”. But then she was blinded and had her faced destroyed in an acid attack in a Phnom Penh night club. Today Srey Ya finally is happy with her life again and sees great hope for her future.

Srey Ya and her daughter Rachana En

Srey Ya and her daughter Rachana En

Before the attack

It happened after work one night when she was 21 years old. She was working as a socalled “whisky girl” for Johnnie Walker, trying to get customers at a restaurant buy her brand of whisky instead of competing brands.

This night she went to the night club Pacific Kiss together with her friends after work. As they were entering the club, an unknown man suddenly steps forward and throws acid on them.

Srey Ya felt a terrible pain and screamed as the acid ate up her face. Within seconds she was blind and her face was all destroyed. Her friends were also hit, but they suffered much smaller injuries.

I met Srey Ya for the first time three years ago as I was writing an article for the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.  At that time she had started to work as a masseuse for “Massage by the blind” and was living together with her extended family in the southern part of Phnom Penh.

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It had been a long process to recover from the injuries and adjusting to the fact that she would never have her old life back. But I found her to be a strong woman who was determined to succeed.

acid2Cambodia has seen a number of acid attacks, often related to love affairs. The most well-know case was the attack on the 16 year old local celebrity Tet Marina in 1999. She was the mistress of a high-level politician – and his wife organized the attack. As so often happens in Cambodia, the persons behind the attack never were charged by the police.

Srey Ya says she has no idea why she and her friends were attack. The police have never found who did it.

I decided to visit her again when I was in Cambodia a week ago. And I met a very happy woman.

- Look, she said, calling a young and beautiful girl. – Here is my daughter.

- Your daughter?

- Yes, I got married since your last visit.

acid3Her husband is a colleague at the massage institute. He has been blind since birth – and they had a huge wedding with 200 guests.

You might wonder how two blind people can bring up a child together. To me it seemed to work just fine – thanks to her family.  Her father took her on his motor bike to work every day – and looked after the daughter during the day. In the neighbor appartment her sister and brother-in-law were living, also helping out.

And the daughter, of course, was already an expert in finding her mother’s belongings when she needed anything.

- I am so happy now, Srey Ya  said and hugged her daughter.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

chamroeun March 23, 2009 at 9:10 am

i'm so sad after reading yr story. Hopen


Kesomackan May 8, 2009 at 10:14 am

Sad, but interesting story. It would be interesting to read your book in the future.


John Einar Sandvand May 8, 2009 at 10:52 am

Thank you! Unfortunately the book probably will only be published in Norwegian. I cross my fingers that the publishing house into English as well. :)


Kounila August 21, 2010 at 3:19 am

I"m going to interview her, John. Thanks for the contact and the story. =D



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