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) income streams?
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 the  family 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:
For Chanti:
- 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?
- What assistance has Citipointe provided her and her family this past five years?
For Citipointe:
- 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 Affairs?
- 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) know  why their children were removed and (b) What they must do to get them back.
- What 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 Affairs:
- 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 Trafficking law?
For Mr Lao Lin, Head of the Ministry of the Interior’s  ‘Anti Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department’

- 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?

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