Straight from Cambodia – Danielle along with Ashlee Larsen, a Brigham Young graduate student, is accompanying Stirring the Fire founder, Phil Borges as he documents the work of Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity.
Update: The STF will be posting about the second organization, Youth Star, soon. Due to lack of internet access and their remote location they were unable to post from the field, but they will be filling you in asap upon their return home. In the meantime here is more about CASC and how rubber plantations play a role in access to acid in Cambodia.
While working with CASC one of our inquiries was into the relative availability and ease of obtaining acid. We were informed that one of the industries that requires acid – and therefore makes it readily available – is the processing and manufacturing of rubber.
Cambodia has a growing rubber industry with a stated goal of reaching production levels high enough to compete with other Asian countries such as Thailand, which is a main producer of natural rubber. While our team traveled to eastern Cambodia we passed endless rubber tree fields in varying stages: from saplings to mature trees all planted in neat razor-sharp rows.
We had a brief opportunity to meet and talk with a family who owned their own small plantation of rubber trees. Walking amongst the organized rows I saw for the first time in my life the birth of the rubber process. A spiral cut is made on the tree trunk and a bowl placed at the end of the cut to catch the white substance dripping out. That liquid is then collected into a larger container and mixed with formic acid and left to sit for 2-3 days to solidify before being sold to a rubber processing company. The left over pieces of rubber – looking much like balled up worms – is separated into strands and sold to a rubber-band processing company.
The family had a 35 liter canister of formic acid, that functions as a coagulant with the rubber, on their property that was purchased for US$50. They expressed little concern over its potentially dangerous properties. CASC, however, has shared with us that there are higher incidents of acid burns around rubber plantations. While this was one family’s take on acid, it fits with the general sense we’ve gotten about the public’s awareness around acid attacks in Cambodia.
People have a vague notion about acid attacks, having heard about one through a highly publicized, high profile acid attack case but don’t really consider it a social problem. But once attacked, or having a family member attacked, the change in awareness is drastic as the issue becomes their own. Their challenge then becomes to heal, learn how to cope, potentially (but rarely) seek legal justice, and eventually learn to live again forever altered. CASC is the only organization in Cambodia working to help survivors achieve these goals. We are profoundly impressed with the work CASC does and how they help survivors take back their lives.
Ending Violence against Women – Acid Burns
Acid burning is one of the most extreme forms of violence that causes severe physical and psychological scarring, and social ostracism. The victims of acid violence, largely women and girls, are often left with limited access to medical or psychological assistance, no legal recourse, and no means of livelihood.
Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) is the only organization in the world focused on combating and eradicating acid burns violence at the international level. In Cambodia, ASTI partners with Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity(CASC) to provide vital services to survivors of acid burns violence. With support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, ASTI and CASC assist women survivors of acid violence to receive justice and to rebuild their lives. The organizations also sensitize and empower local communities to stand up against acid violence.
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, managed by UN Women, is a leading source of support for local and national efforts to end violence against women and girls. Join the UN Trust Fund in this vital work—for more information on how you can support the UN trust Fund click here.