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Phnom Penh (Ah!) - CAMBODIA'S ORPHANAGE TOURISM SCAM

Poor Cambodian children are vulnerable to abuse. These poor children in the province appear happy. One could reason is it's because they live at home with their parents. The problem is others are not so fortunate - Nationaradio.com - photo

 

Cambodian Light Children Association children perform break dancing before a crowd in Hun Sen Park - Nationaradio.com - photo

 

This young lady holds a poster identifying the Cambodian Light Children Association break dancers at Hun Sen Park - Nationaradio.com - photo

 

 

 

 

D. J. Ken - National Radio Text Service

 

 

A Channel News Asia (CNA) telecast of a documentary titled Cambodia's Orphanage Tourism reveals the scam to raise money for orphanages that warehouse Khmer children. The documentary reveals how children are subject to being abused verbally, physically and raped by the Khmer staff. The end game is to raise money for their Khmer staff who are not working in the best interests of the children

 

 

Monday, November 16, 2015

WAREHOUSING CHILDREN FOR MONEY

The NGO's in Cambodia combating the child sex industry is taking another beating resulting from a Channel News Asia (CNA) telecast November 12th titled Cambodia's Orphanage Tourism. The documentary demonstrates how children are recruited by NGO's simply to maintain a quota in order to raise donor funding and donations from tourists.

It also points out that 70% of the children are NOT ORPHANS but simply come from poor families that can't take care of their children. The parents release their child to NGO's because they can't afford to feed them or send them to school.

One mother explained that she had no job and had to give up her daughter to be cared for by an orphanage with Khmer staff. She then obtained a job that only paid $4 a month therefore it was not enough money for her to raise her child. This is a figure that is hard to believe but given that this is Cambodia, any negative instance is believable.

The program relates several horror stories where children are beaten and raped. The examples shown in their video indicated that the offenders are Khmers who are in charge of the NGO.

One girl, Sinet, revealed that she was a resident at an orphanage since when was a young child. When she turned 16 she was raped by the orphanage's Khmer director after she had been a resident there for seven years.

It must be noted that 15-years of age is the age of consent in Cambodia but the girl was not a willing participant, but a victim.

The doc pointed out that a Khmer director of an orphanage served six months in jail for abusing children. When he was released from prison he returned to work at the orphanage.

What many tourists fail to realize or be acquainted with is that the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields mentality remains. The Killing Fields are over but the people responsible or involved in the travesty remain and many are in control of the government. Many of their descendants have instilled in their thinking the same abusive mentality due to their association and upbringing with those that were involved in the Killing Fields.

The perspective is the Cambodians don't think like us (Westerners) by famed journalist Elizabeth when she spoke to members of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia. Becker related her experience during the Khmer Rouge conflict that when she visited a senior military officer at his compound that the pathway to his office was DECORATED with HUMAN SKULLS ON STICKS on both sides.

The reality is if a people find nothing wrong in murdering their fellow countrymen for an ideal then to warehouse, abuse (yelling), beating and raping children is within their mentality given their background.

Other offenses are how orphanage children are trained to perform Khmer dances for tourists on cruise ships. Tours are arranged to take tourist to the orphanages with the end game is for the tourists to have pity and to donate money. The visit to the orphanage tours is sandwiched between a visit to the Royal Palace and the Killing Fields.

During the documentary an individual was interviewed who noted that it was against the law for children to be used to raise money.

Questions are raised about where the money goes. One former NGO chief discovered that there was no record about how much money was collected or how it was spent. The result was he left the tainted NGO and created a new one.

One interesting piece of information revealed in the program was that there was a 70% increase in the number of Cambodian orphanages that opened between 2005 and 2010 and that the children housed are aged between 6 to 16 years of age and many live in squalid conditions.

A question that must be raised is what happens to the child when they become 16 and leave the orphanage? Are they trained to have a proper job that can support them properly in the future or will they then become the prey of human traffickers or become prostitutes?

The documentary also noted that some children aren't fed adequately or seldom. In once instance the program pointed out that some of the children catch rats to eat.

Orphanages mentioned include the Hope Village in Prey Veng, Children's Light, Children's Trust and APLE.

On August 12th, 2009 we observed children break dancing in Hun Sen Park in order to raise money for the Cambodian Light Children Association. We requested to see the orphanage and what the organization was doing but we failed to connect with the individual who gave us his card. The reasons why are not clear.

In the filmed documentary Children's Trust and APLE are portrayed to be positive and constructive. The Children's Trust's Ross Layton was interviewed as was APLE's Samleng Seila. Though meaning well Children's Trust was shut down after four years of operation.

A red flag is as that in the past when this type of documentary is made often the people interviewed continue to be the same individuals. Seila is one of the most recognized of the go to guys by documentary producers for an interview and information. This year APLE has come under fire for alleged child abuse but that information was ignored in the documentary.

Prior to her being exposed as a fraud filmmakers went to Somaly Mam. She was accused of telling lies and creating stories about the children in her care in order to raise money. Since that story was published by Newsweek Magazine she has not been included in this type of documentary that we are aware of.

Khmers aren't the only NGO staff whose behaviors and ethics are questionable. We had one experience of being contacted by a foreigner who represented herself as being with the Angelina Jolie Foundation in Battambang, Cambodia. She wanted information of how to contact former Cambodian Olympic athlete Sou Tit Linda as a result of her reading a story that we did in 2004 about the track star.

The foreigner left the Jolie Foundation website, email and phone contacts. When we tried to reach her to confirm why she wanted Linda's information the results were the web site worked but the phone number failed and an email to her resulted in a no reply.

It's behavior like this by foreigners that raises red flags and discredits, in this case, Angelina Jolie.

The Cambodia's Orphanage Tourism documentary has some holes. It has some contradictions in noting early on in the piece that the government claims they have no control of orphanages being created or who runs them and that the government could only recommend their closure. Later in the piece they note that the government closed several orphanages down. It raises the question… what is the truth?


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