Thursday, September 5, 2013

2nd open letter to the Phnom Penh Post and Cambodia Daily

One English language newspaper in Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Post, has made it quite clear in an email exchange, that it does not intend to ask any of the questions I have posed in either my first or second open letters to the newspaper. 

The Cambodia Daily has fired off questions to Citipointe church but received no response. Whether the Daily will continue to ask questions or see such stonewalling as a reason not to pursue the story further remains to be seen.

The Phnom Penh Post may well have been intimidated into silence by Citipoitne church by implied threats of a defamation suit. If so, the Post’s fears are justified.

In 2009 the Director of the NGO Khmer Civilisation Foundation was convicted to two years in prison for comments he made regarding the plan to hang fairy lights from Angkor Wat. When it comes to defamation, Hun Sen, his political and business cronies and those best able to buy the verdict they want always win in Cambodia. If I had any assets that I was fearful of losing I too might feel less inclined to speak out publicly about Citipointe church’s illegal removal of children from poor families.

Dear Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post

Further to my open letter of 26th August and in relation to the ‘contract’ Chanti entered into with Citipointe church on 31st July 2008, believing that she was entering into an agreement with LICADHO.

I can supply you with a colour photocopy of this document. If you have it translated and assessed by a lawyer I suspect that some questions would arise for a journalist interested assessing the legality of Citipointe’s actions in removing Rosa and Chita from their parent’s care:

(1) Is this 31st July 2008 document, not signed by any member of Citipointe church, a legally binding contract under Cambodian law?

(2) If this 31st July 2008 contract is not legally binding, was Citipointe in breach of Cambodian law between mid 2008 and late 2009 when the church repeatedly refused the parents’ (Chanti and Chhork’s) repeated requests that Rosa and Chita be returned to their care?

(3) Did the simple act of registering the ‘She Rescue Home’ with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs give Citipointe church the right to remove young girls from the care of their materially poor families in much the same way Rosa and Chita were removed - with a ‘contract’ that the parents could not read, did not undersand and which was not signed by the church?

(4) If the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’ is legally binding, what rights does it give to Citipointe vis a vis retaining custody of Rosa and Chita? What rights does the document give to the parents – Chanti and Chhork? What rights does the ‘contract’ give to the girls themselves? Bear in mind that when Citipointe induced Chanti to sign this document with her thumb print the church told me that it would keep Rosa and Chita in its care until they were 18 years old. This was presented to me both in writing and in conversations that have been recorded.

(5) Is it appropriate, from a human rights point of view, that in the past 5 years Chanti and Chhork have been given no access to any other documents relating to agreements entered into between Citipointe church and the Ministries of Foreign and Social Affairs regarding their daughters?

Why do neither the Cambodia Daily nor the Phnom Penh Post bother to ask such questions of Citipointe church? Or, if questions such as these have been asked, publish the answers?

If Citipointe refuses to answer such questions, publish this and let your readers make up their own minds as to the legality of the church[s actions.

If Citipointe answers questions such as those above to the satisfaction of either or both the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post perhaps there is no story – other than that an Australian filmmaker has spent five years making unfounded allegations against an Australian based NGO that are defamatory. If so, publish that.

If Citipointe removed Rosa and Chita illegally in mid 2008 the collective NGO community should, I believe, let the church know that NGOs that trick poor parents into giving up their daughters are not welcome as part of that community as they bring it into disrepute.

If either or both newspapers have asked the questions above and have answers, do you believe that Chanti is entitled to know what the answers are? Or is it OK for the parents to be kept in the dark as to why their daughters have been removed and what they must do to have them returned?

I can provide both of your newspapers with a color photocopy of the ‘contract’ that Chanti entered into with Citipointe on 31st July 2008 if you are interested. This is the only document that has been provided to Chanti and Chhork this past five years to justify the removal of their children and the continued custody of them by Citipointe church – despite Chanti and Chhork’s repeated requests over a period of five years to have their daughters returned to them.

Citipointe church may, under Cambodian law, be guilty of human trafficking. This is what I allege. A few phone calls could be made, emailed questions could be sent, in order to ascertain whether my allegations have any substance or not.

If, on the basis of facts (and not mere assertions by Citipointe) my allegations are without substance, the church could and should commence defamations proceedings against me immediately.

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