Sunday, October 6, 2013

Failure of the English language Fourth Estate in Cambodia Part 2


Chanti, Chhork, Chanti's mother, Vanna, and four of her children live here. Much of Chhork's extended family lives in this village. Chhork's father, the Commune Chief , has never once been consulted by either Citipointe or the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Citizens: The New Fourth Estate

“Citizens are the new Fourth Estate. As the new media disrupt the industrial model of information, citizens have become empowered to oversee the doings of their elected representatives. A more direct form of democracy is emerging. The availability of information and, more importantly, the ability to communicate and self-organize has created a diverse "citizens movement" that serves as a check and balance on the prerogatives of government. It is a worldwide phenomenon.

David Hoffman

As Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party are discovering, to their shock and horror, the rules of the game have changed. No longer can a ruling party control the flow of information to the citizens it wishes to control.

With information, made available through Facebook and other social media, comes the capacity of citizens to act collectively and to realize that whilst each individual twig can easily be broken by a ‘strongman’, those twigs, bound together in common purpose, cannot be broken. This is what is happening in Cambodia and yesterday’s rally/dialogue between the true democratic leaders of Cambodia and the people, is yet another manifestation of this.

No doubt Hun Sen and his cronies will make one last ditch attempt to use intimidation, assassination and the other tools that have kept the Cambodian People’s Party in power for the past 30 years. These may be effective in the short term but will not succeed in the long term. The writing is on the wall. Hun Sen is finished – not just as a ‘strongman’ but as the representation of an idea. No dictator, no matter how many soldiers he has at his disposal, no matter how big his personal bodyguard, no matter how many tanks and water canon, no matter how much razor wire he can roll out, can counter the power of a people united in the resolve to live freely in a democracy of their own making – with elected representatives who see themselves as public servants and who do not see the public, the people who elected them as so many opportunities to be exploited for personal gain.

Just as Hun Sen’s old-fashioned style of dictatorship is doomed to failure, so too are newspapers worldwide that are either unable or refuse to provide information of the kind that citizens can now get from the internet – most particularly from Facebook and a variety of different blogs. My own blog is read by comparatively few people but I know, as I see my readership grow slowly but surely, that there is a small core group of people worldwide that are interested in what I am writing about NGOs in general and Citipointe church in particular. It is common knowledge that all is not well within the world of Non Government Organizations in Cambodia; that may of them may well have come with the ostensible reason of helping the Cambodian people but who now have at the top of their list of priorities helping themselves. It is a great pity that the NGO community turns a blind eye to such abuses and an even greater pity that the English language newspapers in Cambodia do not see that it is their role to hold NGOs accountable; to demand of them the transparency they demand of  the Cambodian Government.


For years now I have invited Citipointe to challenge the veracity of anything I write – with a promise top publish whatever corrections the church may wish to make to the facts I have presented in my blog. They have not done so. Instead, Pastor Brian Mulheran threatened to have me arrested, jailed and banned from coming to Cambodia again. Pastor Brian Mulheran’s scarcely veiled threat was designed to serve the same purpose as the intimidation practiced by Hun Sen’ ruling CPP – to silence a vocal critic. Pastor Mulheran’s threats did not have the desired effect. Quite the opposite. I wished (and still do) that Citpointe church would sue me for defamation (in either Cambodia or Australia) so that the facts of its human rights abuses in Cambodia can be help up to public scrutiny.


Presuming that the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post have not been intimidated by an actual or imagined threat to sue, why do both newspapers remain silent in the case of the removal of the daughters of a poor family under questionable circumstances? One would think that, at the very least, a brief conversation with Chanti would be in order for any journalist interested in separating facts from allegations? No, zero interest in having a conversation with a woman whose children were removed from her five years ago by a Christian church. How about looking at the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’ with a view to assessing its legal status? No, this would involve about half an hour of work and would, it seems, be a waste of a journalist’s time. Make contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ask about the nature of the agreement between the Ministry and Citipointe that give the church the right to remove Rosa and Chita without the consent of their parents? Too much trouble, it seems! Or, perhaps the question has been asked and Foreign Affairs has side-stepped it by saying, “Yes, Citipointe had the right to remove the children and, no, the parents do not have a right to know why.” Even this, surely, is worth reporting because it means that a combination of Foreign Affairs and NGO can remove children from their families without even the pretense of transparency and accountability. Is this practice commonplace? Readers of the Phnom Penh Post and the Cambodia will never know because neither newspaper will bother to even ask questions of the kind that will throw light on the workings of NGOs in Cambodia. And so it is that corrupt and incompetent NGOs can not only survive and prosper but poor Cambodian’s can have their children taken away under false pretenses and then held by NGOs with whatever agenda they choose to act in accordance with – be it the conversation of young souls to Jesus Christ or deceiving donors and sponsors all around the world by passing these children off as ‘victims’.

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