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.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Somaly Mam. Will her lies, told in the name of a good cause, perhaps, be forgotten in a few weeks?
Kek Pung, LICADHO
Naly Pilorge, LICADHO
Eric Meldrum, SISHA
Kek, Naly and Eric
I am writing in relation to both Somaly
Mam and Yem Chanti – the mother whose daughters were removed from hers and her
husband’s care five years ago by Citipointe church. The connection between the
two will become apparent.
Poppy, Chanti and Chhork
SISHA’s mission statement online includes
"To provide justice for victims of human
trafficking and other forms of exploitation by strengthening the criminal
justice system, and victim, social and legal support services throughout Asia….A
world where everyone can live free from oppression and abuse".
The LICADHO mission statement includes
LICADHO (is) at the forefront of efforts to protect civil and
political and economic and social rights in Cambodia and to promote respect for
them by the Cambodian government and institutions….LICADHO continues to be an
advocate for the Cambodian people and a monitor of the government through wide
ranging human rights programs… LICADHO monitors collect and investigate human
rights violations perpetrated
by the State and violations made against
women and children. Victims are provided assistance through interventions with local
authorities and court officials.
Ratha, who featured in a 1998 documentary alongside Somaly Mam has recently
declared that she lied for the camera at the request of Somaly Mam.
Somaly Mam exploiting Meas Ratha? (SISHA mission statement)? Was Somaly Mam
violating Meas Ratha’s human rights (LICADHO mission statement) in telling a 14
year old girl to lie in order to raise awareness (and money) for the cause she
was committed to?
would contend that Meas Ratha has both been exploited and had her human rights
violated. Do LICADHO and SISHA?
in accordance with both LICADHO’S and SISHA’S interpretation of human rights
abuse and exploitation, Somaly Mam forcing Meas Ratha to lie is not exploitative or a human rights
abuse, you need read no more of this letter. If inducing a vulnerable 14 year
old girl to lie does constitute a human rights abuse, what are SISHA and
LICADHO going to do about it?
possibility exists, of course, that Meas Rath has not told the truth in October
2013; that what she told the camera in 1998, with Somaluy Mam at her side, was
the truth. The only way that the truth or otherwise of her 2013 confession to
Cambodia Daily journalists can be determined is if some independent NGO
concerned with human rights and with questions related to child prostitution
and trafficking were to ask Meas Ratha and Somaly Mam the relevant (and
either SISHA or LICADHO be asking such questions to determine whether Meas Ratha
is lying or telling the truth?
I am sure you will all be aware, Meas Ratha is now under
pressure from the Somaly Mam Foundation to recant the story she told to the
Cambodia Daily. With the Foundation’s healthy bank balance (thanks in large
part to Hollywood celebrities such as Susan Sarandon and Angelina Jolie) no
doubt Somaly Mam hopes that her lies get no further coverage than has occurred
to date. Both SISHA and LICADHO can help her guarantee that the story gains no
traction by asking no questions at all of Meas Ratha and remaining silent.
Surely, in cases such as this, your silence, the
silence of Chab Dai and the entire NGO community, amounts to complicity? In the
same way, your collective silence on Citipointe church’s illegal removal of
Chanti and Chhork’s daughters in 2008 makes you complicit in their remaining,
in contravention of Cambodian law, in the custody of the church in Oct 2013.
Chhork, Kevin, Srey Ka, Chanti and Poppy
Both LICADHO and SISHA know that the only legal
way that Citipointe can retain custody of Rosa and Chita, given that their
parents have consistently asked for their return this past five years, is if
there is evidence that they are at risk in some way in being returned to their
home. When Citipointe induced Chanti to sign the sham 31st July 2008
document (and there is no question but that it is a sham) there was never any
suggestion that the girls were at risk. There has never, over the past five
years, been any suggestion that Rosa and Chita would be at risk if they were
returned to their family. Why then are the girls still in the care of Citipointe?
Why do both LICADHO and SISHA remain silent?
If LICADHO and/or SISHA believe that there is
some risk to Rosa and Chita if they return to their family, both organizations
should, at the very least, inform Chanti and Chhork what this risk amounts to.
James, Kevin and Srey Ka
It may well be (indeed it seems to be the case)
that both SISHA and LICADHO are powerless to do anything at all to secure the
release of Rosa and Chita but surely, as with Somaly Mam, an investigation
should occur (some questions asked) and the results be made publicly known? If
SISHA and LICADHO are not prepared to put even moral pressure on Citipointe to
explain the church’s actions in 2008 and its refusal to release the girls in
2013, to whom can Chanti and Chhork turn to at least get vocal support of their
rights as parents to bring up their own children?
It may be, in a country as corrupt as Cambodia, in
which the rule of law is only available to those who can afford to pay the
judiciary to obtain the legal result they want, that SISHA and LICADHO are
essentially powerless to intervene in the case of Meas Ratha or Yem Chanti.
However, surely you can, either individually or collectively, express your
concern to the Minister of Social Services (and do so in a very public manner)
that no reason has been provided by either MOSAVY or Citipointe church as to
why Rosa and Chita cannot be returned to their family.
As matters stand, both SISHA and LICADHO have
had ample opportunity to express, in public, your NGOs’ concerns about
Citipointe church’s refusal to return Rosa and Chita to their parents. You have
not taken advantage of it. As has been the case with Somaly Mam’s lies this
last decade, you have chosen silence rather than demanding public
accountability of NGOs such as Somaly Mam’s Foundation and of Citipointe church.
There is, as a result, virtually no disincentive to the Somaly Mams and Leigh
Ramseys in the NGO community to lie in order to raise money. Such lies, of
course, reflect badly on the entire NGO community when they are uncovered.
Please accept this letter as an invitation to both
LICADHO and SISHA be interviewed for my film, CHANTI’S WORLD. I wish to give
you all the opportunity to address questions relating to Cambodian ‘orphanages’
and other such‘rescue’ centers if you
As for Somaly Mam, I wonder if her exposure by
the Cambodia Daily as a fraud will have any consequences? Will she, next month,
be back in Time magazine with full page (and heavily photoshopped) photos of
herself as she raises money for an NGO that has achieved both fame and fortune
based on her lies?
many lies will Somaly Mam be allowed to tell before SISHA, LICADHO and the NGO
community lets her and her Foundation know that it is not appropriate, to say
the least, to coach 14 year old girls to lie, in order to raise money for a
Chita, Chanti and Rosa
importantly for the NGO community in Cambodia, how many other NGOs are telling
lies in order to raise money? And how will donors and sponsors react when the
discover not only that they have been lied to but that those in a position to
expose such lies (SISHA and LICADHO being two such NGOs) have maintained a
diplomatic silence about abuses they know to be occurring?