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NY TIMES: ACID ATTACKS IN CAMBODIA

August 26th, 2010

In early 2008, I visited the Children’s Surgical Center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh at the request of one of its US-based supporters. I was working for a few NGO’s while in Cambodia and using the time to continue my personal work on human trafficking. At the Center, I found a woman who recently had acid thrown upon her. I forget the circumstances of the attack, but her grand daughter was also covered by the indiscriminate spray, and had already died. The woman was feverish with infection, her breath rapid and shallow, and the doctors fought a losing battle. Blood transfusions seeped out of her damaged skin faster than they could replenish her fluids. Her adult children watched over her, fanning her, slack-faced and in shock. A few days later the woman died.

I had heard of acid attacks before, but hadn’t thought about it in Cambodia. Although barely quantified at the time, readily available acid in Cambodia’s violence desensitized and traumatized society meant acid attack was an increasingly common method of settling disputes or seeking revenge.

Not long after I met the acid attack victim in 2008, I visited the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity to photograph the survivors who were making a new life for themselves. Although horribly scarred, I found the women engaging, fun, and full of vitality.

A couple of days ago the NY Times published this piece on acid attack in Cambodia.

Click through the jump below for images from my visit in 2008.

After reading the NY Times piece, it looks like Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity has stabilized itself (it was struggling with funding) such that it can increase its services, which is good to hear. Hopefully it can continue its awareness campaign and decrease the incidences of acid attack.

My series of images from early 2008:


Cambodian Acid Survivor Center – Images by Tim Matsui

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