Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A sudden visit to Cambodia

The message from Chanti, via a friend who has a friend who has access
to email, was that Chanti was sick and needed my help. Chanti is 8
months pregnant and had a high fever.

The Brisbane based Christian church that has effectively stolen
Chanti's two eldest daughters (Citipointe) were offering her no help
her at all. Citipointe refuses to help Chanti as a matter of
principle. It will only help the two children that it acquired from
Chanti illegally and which the church has, for four years now, refused
to return to her. A new Stolen generation!?

So, off to Cambodia I have flown to see what I can do to help Chanti
and to engage in yet another round of battle with Citipointe church,
in my ongoing attempts to get the church to return her daughters to
her care.

I have been documenting Chanti’s life for close to 18 years now in
CHANTI’S WORLD. The project has been 100% self-funded to date.
However, a few years ago, when I had no funds and needed to do some
filming, I applied to Screen Australia for a relatively small amount
of money. The relevant Screen Australia employees who should have
viewed my 7 minute ‘promo’ for CHANTI’S WORLD did not view it. A cock
up! It is from this cock up (admitted to by Claire Jager, Ross Mathews
and Julia Overton) that the dispute between myself and Screen
Australia arose – a dispute that has resulted in Ruth Harley and the
Screen Australia Board banning me from making any applications to
Screen Australia on the grounds that viewing a ‘promo’ of mine or
reading a screenplay of mine would place SA staff at risk! At  risk of
what, one wonders? At risk of what one asks. Frequently. No response
is forthcoming. The ban is based on a lie and motivated by a
combination of spite and revenge on the part of Ruth Harley. Ruth does
not like, will not abide, any criticism of herself or Screen
Australia. But I am repeating myself.

My letter to Leigh Ramsay, Senior Pastor of Citipointe church, speaks
for itself:

Leigh Ramsay
322 Wecker Road
QLD 4152

Dear Leigh

I have arrived in Phnom Penh to find Chanti sick and in need of
hospitalisation.  As you know, Chanti is 8 months pregnant. Her white
blood cells are, I discovered in my first 24 hours in Phnom Penh,
dangerously low as a result of a respiratory infection. The precise
nature of the infection will not be known until a second round of
blood tests have been done. What we do know at present is that there
is a build up of fluid in her body that, if it is not dealt with,
could place Chanti’s baby's life at risk. The cost of the hospital
will be $45 a day – a cost that I will, yet again, quite happily meet.

The prime issue here is not so much that Citipointe is mean-spirited
in offering no help at all to any other members of Chanti’s family
(though this is the case) but that it never occurs to you or your
staff to even make enquiries as to the health of Chanti’s family. It
would have been blindingly obvious to the Citipopinte staff who
visited Chanti’s home just a few days ago that she had a fever, was
not well and needed to see a doctor she could ill afford.  Did they
pas this information on to you? A couple of years ago it was a tumour
on Chanti’s wrist that was large enough that your staff could not have
failed to notice it. It cost only $60 to have the tumour removed – a
cost that Citipointe would not meet. I did. Have your staff been
instructed NOT to make enquiries about the health of Chanti and her
family? Are there any circumstances under which your church might
reach out and help Chyanti and her family? The potential death of her
unborn child, for instance! What sort of a Christian are you, Leigh?

Your total disregard for the well-being of Chanti herself, and for the
rest of her family, no longer astounds me. What does astound me is
that your fellow Christian NGOs, under the umbrella of Chab Dai, turn
a blind eye to your exploitation of the girls in your care – in
contravention of both Cambodian and Australian law and the basic
precepts of Christianity. It astounds me also that the government of
Cambodia allows an NGO such as Citipointe to operate in this country –
an NGO that engages in (at least) two varieties of human rights abuse
– of the children themselves and of their parents.

Poverty tourism, also known as orphan-tourism is the latest in a long
line of human rights abuses visited upon the poor Cambodian people.
This involves subjecting young girls like Rosa and Chita to the gaze
(and camera lenses) of  ‘well-meaning’ tourists who believe they can
demonstrate to others and themselves what ‘good’ and ‘caring’ people
they are visiting an orphanage, working in the kitchen and otherwise
hanging out with the children of poor parents. The bulk of these
children are not orphans at all, of course. They have families.  Poor
families. This is a scam and should end – both in the case of genuine
orphans and those who, like Rosa and Chita, have effectively been
‘stolen’ from their poor parents.

In the case of Citipointe there is another level to this
‘poverty-tourism’ scam – namely presenting girls like Rosa and Chita
as having been rescued from the sex trade. This is a bald-faced lie.
Do you ever tell your Citipointe ‘poverty tourists’ that Rosa and Srey
Mal have a mother and a father, a grandmother, siblings, a home and a
dad who earns enough money at a tuk tuk driver to support the whole
family? Do you tell your ‘poverty-tourists’  that you have refused
Chanti’s repeated requersts to have her daughters returned to her
care?  Do you tell your ‘poverty tourists’ of the enormous distress it
causes Chanti being able to see her daughters for only a few hours
each month? Do you tell your ‘poverty tourists’ that the ‘She’ refuge
is much less concerned with the welfare of the families the church
claims to be reintegrating the children in its care back into than in
exploiting girls like Rosa and Chita to raise money for the church?

Turning children into tourist attractions would not be tolerated in
Australia, as you know. Nor would the stealing of the daughters of
poor parents by tricking them into signing worthless contracts that
they could not read and did not understand. In Australia you would be
up on charges of kidnapping for what you have done – holding Rosa and
Chita for 15 months against the express wishes of their mother and

There is another new development in this ongoing saga but I will leave
off telling you of it until Chanti has been returned to health – with
no thanks at all to yourself or Citipointe church. You are the kind of
Christian, Leigh, that gives Christianity a bad name.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Blog readers interested in the full story of how it is that Chanti;s
daughters were stolen from her can visit:


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