Cambodia premier calls on tycoon who assaulted TV star to face justice

Cambodian tycoon Sok Bun (right) speaking at an event.
Cambodian tycoon Sok Bun (right) speaking at an event. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CAMBODIAN VALUERS AND ESTATE AGENTS ASSOCIATION

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia's premier on Thursday called for a property tycoon, whose vicious assault on a popular TV star was caught on video, to return to the country and face justice after he went on the run.

Ek Socheata, better known by her stage name SaSa, described to AFP on Thursday the terrifying moment when wealthy property magnate Sok Bun and his armed bodyguard attacked her in a Phnom Penh restaurant.

CCTV footage emerged last week of the assault, fuelling public anger in impoverished Cambodia, where violence against women is commonplace and the wealthy are often seen to be beyond the reach of a corrupt judicial system.

"He used his boots to step on my body and head, he kicked me and he used his boots to stomp on my face and nose," said 28-year-old SaSa.

"I am aware of domestic violence (in Cambodia), but this violence was so cruel. His beating was not to scare me, he was trying to kill me," she added.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that he was angered that Sok Bun, whose whereabouts are unknown, had yet to hand himself in to police.

"I have asked Sok Bun to appear at the court very soon," he said during a speech at a student graduation ceremony.

"You have already admitted to attacking her... come quickly," he added, describing the assault as "excessive".

The attack on SaSa took place in the early hours of July 2 in a Japanese restaurant in the capital.

She said an argument began when Sok Bun made drunken and unwanted advances towards a Japanese friend.

She obtained CCTV footage of the incident and posted it on Facebook four days later alongside images of her injuries.

The grainy footage shows two men beating a woman in a black dress, dragging her from a leather sofa and repeatedly kicking her in the head as she desperately tries to get up from the floor.

Sok Bun's bodyguard is seen brandishing a handgun throughout the attack.

A second woman in a white dress looks on helplessly as a waiter tries to break up the fight.

"I would not have survived without help from the waiter," SaSa told AFP.

Local media said that Sok Bun may have fled to Singapore.

In a number of statements released this week through his lawyer, he admitted carrying out the attack and pleaded for mercy from the public.

"I would like to express my regret for all of my wrongdoings which happened unintentionally," a statement released on Tuesday read.

He also said he had offered SaSa US$100,000 (S$136,645) compensation and had resigned from a number of trade bodies.

In a further statement released on Wednesday, Sok Bun said he would return to Cambodia to face the allegations but only after he had finished receiving unspecified medical treatment.

SaSa said the compensation offer has since been raised to US$200,000 but she wants to see her attacker in court before deciding whether to accept it.