Claudia Karvan, Al Clarke, members of the Screen Australia Board, you say I pose a risk to SA staff. Owing to your duty of care, you say, you cannot allow SA staff to meet with or communicate with me. You refuse to provide me with any evidence that I pose a risk; that I have engaged in ‘highly offensive conduct’. The reason is simple. There is none. And you know it. Your ban is a fatwa; punishment for a critic; a warning to other filmmakers.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Failure of the English language Fourth Estate in Cambodia Part 4
Regardless of the rights or wrongs
of the 2008 removal of Rosa and Chita, why does Citipointe still retain custody
of girls whose family owns land, has a home and three different (if small)
Yes, one income stream has been
temporarily disrupted by the loss of the family tuk tuk but this is a minor set
back and will be resolved in a few weeks. Indeed it is a setback that Citipointe
could solve today if the church had any interest at all in helping the family
and were prepared to make a $1,500 interest free loan to Chanti and Chhork to
buy a new tuk tuk. Citipointe does not. Any attempt on the part of the church
to help Chanti and Chhork become self-sufficient would risk the loss of Rosa
and Chita – two girls whom Citipointe not only believes belong to the church
now but who provide a regular income stream through sponsorships and donations.
Chanti, baby Poppy and Srey Ka
Whilst the 31st July
2008‘contract’ between Citipointe and
Chanti has no legal standing, as any lawyer who looks at it recognizes
immediately, it is clear on one point – namely that Chanti’s problem at the
time, and the problem that Citipointe offered to assist her and her family
with, was poverty.
By November 2008 Chanti and Chhork
were no longer poor but Citipointe refused to return Rosa and Chita to them. In
Oct 2013 thefamily is no longer poor
(by Cambodian standards) but still the church refuses to return them. Why? The
church refuses to answer this question. The Ministry of Social Affairs refuses
to answer this question. The English language media in Cambodia refuses to even
ask this question. Chanti and Chhork are as much in the dark as to why their
daughters were removed as they were in Nov 2008 when they first made it
abundantly clear that they wanted the girls returned.
A few questions that a journalist
with an hour to spare could have asked this past few years:
- Other than
the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’, have she and Chhork been presented
with any other contract or agreement to sign with Citipointe church or with the
Ministry of Social Affairs?
assistance has Citipointe provided her and her family this past five years?
- Other than
the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’ is the church in possession of any
other agreement entered into with (a) Chanti or (b) the Ministry of Social
- If such an
agreement exists, why were Chanti and Chhork not consulted in its drawing up
and why does the church refuse to allow Chanti and Chhork to (a) knowwhy their children were removed and (b) What
they must do to get them back.
assistance has the church provided to Chanti’s family and in what form did
their oft promised but never delivered re-integration program take?
- How much
revenue for Citipointe has been generated through donations and sponsorships
made to the church to help ‘victims of human trafficking’ Rosa and Chita?
For the Ministry of Social
- In what way
or for what reason is Chanti and Chhork’s home in Prey Veng in Oct 2013 deemed
not to be a suitable or safe place for Rosa and Chita to live? Why do the
criteria (whatever they may be) apply to Rosa and Chita and not to any others
of Chanti and Chhork’s four children?
- Given your
recent but failed attempts to get Citipointe to release Rosa and Chita back
into the care of their parents, does LICADHO have any power at all when it
comes to providing real help to poor Cambodians such as Chanti and Chhork?
- Why does
SISHA, devoted to combating the trafficking of humans in SE Asia, turn a blind
eye when it is an Australian Christian NGO that is breaking Cambodia’s Human
For Mr Lao Lin, Head of the Ministry of the Interior’s ‘Anti Human Trafficking and Juvenile
- What was the legal basis upon
which Citipointe church kept Rosa and Chita incarcerated in the church’s ‘She
Rescue Home’ between July 31st 2008 and Nov 2009 against the express
wishes of their parents?
Another question that an
investigating journalist could ask, in looking at the bigger picture, is of
HAGAR, a recipient of AusAID funding:
“It is true
that HAGAR limits the visits of children in the NGOs care with their families
to 2 hours per year?”
This question would take less than
a minute for a journalist to ask in an email. And I could direct an interested
journalist to young women who maintain that they were only allowed to see their
family for two hours a year whilst in the care of HAGAR. Yes, all these young
women could be lying. But then so could HAGAR, if the NGO denies that visits
are limited to 2 hours per year. (HAGAR will cite ‘client confidentiality as a
reason to answer no questions).
Even the most thorough of
investigations may not reveal where the truth lies vis a vis the two hours per
annum visitations rights practiced by HAGAR but this should not deter a
journalist from presenting both sides of the story and asking, in a public
forum, the questions that HAGAR refuses to answer. My own attempts to get
answers from HAGAR can be found at:
And there are myriad questions
that could be asked of the Cambodian Children’s Fund by any journalist who
looks at the NGO’s website, calculator in hand. I have asked many questions of
Scott Neeson but he refuses to answer most of them and, in one instance replied
with such a whopping lie in relation to assistance that CCF had allegedly
provided one family that makes one wonder if anything he says or that appears
on his website is true. Almost all of my correspondence with Scott is to be
found online, starting at:
Ask anyone who has considerable experience in Cambodia, considerable experience with NGOs and it does not take long before heads get shaken in unison at the sheer hopelessness of so many NGOs and the contradiction between what they claim to be doing on their websites and what they are actually doing on the ground. Like the Emperor’s New Clothes, however, everyone in Cambodia making a good living from ‘helping’ poor Cambodians prefers to pretend that all is well in NGO land. And the English language buries its head, ostrich like, in the sand and sees nothing!
Chita (left) and Rosa (right) - illegally removed in 2008
I hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future it will be the Cambodians themselves who get together, form their own lobby and start asking of the NGO community the kind of transparency and accountability that they are now demanding of their government. I hope that it will be Cambodians themselves asking how NGO monies are being spent? How much of it is actually helping Cambodia’s poor and how much of it is being spent enabling expatriate NGOs to live in the sort of comfort they would not have available to them back in their home countries? Even in the case of NGOs that mean well and are trying their hardest, how many of them are doing more harm than good?