Monday, January 27, 2014

Citipointe, an Australian Christian church, uses deception and fraud to steal two girls from a poor Cambodian family

Chita, her mother, Chanti and sister Rosa on a rare home visit

In mid 2008 Leigh Ramsay, Senior Pastor at Brisbane-based Citipointe church tricked a materially poor Cambodian mother, Chanti, into putting her thumb print on a 'contract' that Chanti could not read and the contents of which she did not understand. Chanti believed that she was giving LICADHO (a prominent Cambodian Human Rights NGO) permission to take care of her daughters.  

Pastor Ramsay then lied to Chanti and her husband Chhork that they had signed away their rights as parents until Rosa and Chita were 18 years old. Chanti, believing what Pastor Ramsay had told her, was devastated that the Australian Christians who had offered her short term assistance (and believing them to be representatives of LICADHO) had effectively kidnapped her daughters.

Five years later, Chanti and her family live in Prey Veng province, own two blocks of land, live in a spacious home, work a one hectare rice paddy and have a tuk tuk that Chhork uses to earn a modest income. 

Chanti and her husband Chhork

Citipointe church refuses to return Rosa and Chita to their family under any circumstances, despite multiple requests from Chanti and Chhork over a period of five years. Citipointe refuses to give any reason for its actions, deferring questions to the Ministry of Social Affairs - which refuses to answer any questions

Chanti and Chhork's family home and tuk tuk in 2014

The story of how Citipointe stole Rosa and Chita from their parents has been documented in detail on this blog. With the exception of a couple of brief meetings with Pastor Ramsay in Phnom Penh, all of my communication with the church, and its with me, has been in writing.

James, Chhork, Kevin, Chanti, Srey Ka, baby Poppy with her grandmother, Vanna

Citipointe has done nothing this past five years to help Chanti's family become self-sufficient. It has  provided not one dollar of financial aid and refused to even pay for medical care when Chanti was 8 months pregnant last year and had a bout of pneumonia that threatened the well-being of her soon to be born daughter, Poppy.

Not only has Citipointe failed to assist the family in any way this past five years, the church generates income for itself by presenting Rosa and Chita, now aged 11 and 10, to donors and sponsors as 'victims of human trafficking'. This is a lie, as anyone who reads the correspondence in my blog will quickly realise.

Rosa in 2008 at church prayer meeting  at which food was handed out to the parents of poor children prior to the church offering to help take care of the girls on a temporary basis.

The reality is that Rosa and Chita were simply the children of poor parents who sought short term assistance whilst in the midst of a financial crisis in mid 2008 and were lied to by Pastor Ramsay regarding the church's true intentions. For five years Pastor Ramsay has been promising to re-integrate Rosa and Chita into the family but has never made any attempt to do so. This has caused Chanti and Chhork a never-ending series of heart-breaks.

Chita at prayer meeting - sister Rosa behind, to her right

The church has threatened twice to sue me for defamation in response to what I have written on this blog but failed, each time, to carry through with its threats. 

Chanti and the family's one hectare rice paddy

Citipointe will not sue me for one simple reason. In an Australian court a defamation case would necessitate that Pastor Ramsay provide evidence that her action in removing Rosa and Chita from their family in 2008 was legal. It was not. 

Chhork, Kevin, Srey Ka, Chanti and Poppy

The 2008 'contract', which makes no reference to the church keeping the girls until they were 18 (indeed it contains no terms and conditions at all and is not countersigned by anyone representing Citipointe), is fraudulent. It carries no legal weight - not even in Cambodia - a country in which there is no effective rule of law and in which politicians, the rich and powerful and NGOs such as Citipointe can break the law with impunity. 


Citipointe insists that the church has another contract,  entered into with the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or the Ministry of Social Affairs - one that gives the church the right to hold the girls against their parents' wishes until they are 18. Citipointe refuses to provide a copy of the contract to Chanti and Chhork, to myself (the family's legally appointed advocate) or to LICADHO - deeply implicated in the removal of Rosa and Chita in the first place.  At least according to Pastor Ramsay.

The Ministries of Foreign and Social Affairs refuse to say whether either has entered into such a contract with the church or not. The question of the legality of Citipointe's actions is clouded in secrecy.

There is no law in Cambodia that enables an NGO to retain the custody of children contrary to the wishes of the parents - unless, that is, there is evidence that the parents' home is not a safe place for the children. There has never, in five years, been any suggestion that Chanti and Chhork's home is an unsafe environment for Rosa and Chita to live in. As anyone who visited their home, their village, would discover very quickly, the family home is safe and filled with love and laughter.

Srey Ka and the family tuk tuk

In a defamation case Citipointe would also have to explain to an Australian court why it continues to refuse to return Rosa and Chita to their family home - despite multiple requests from their parents over a period of five years, to do so.  In Cambodia the church is under no obligation to explain or justify its actions. This would not be the case in Australia. 

If the church pursued a defamation case and the facts of the matter became public knowledge,  Pastor Ramsay would leave herself open to being charged with various 'deprivation of liberty' and kidnapping charges that carry jail sentences in Australia. Similar laws prevail in Cambodia but are not administered if, as is all too often the case, the human rights abuser pays the Judge.

Chanti, Poppy, Srey Ka and James watch TV

A defamation case would also, inevitably, attract the attention of the media - members of which would start to ask Citipointe a lot of very awkward questions about the church's activities in Cambodia - questions that would alert donors and sponsors to the way in which the church uses lies and deception to exploit poor families such as Chanti and Chhork's for its own fund-raising purposes. It might also result in the media asking questions of other similarly fraudulent Australian NGOs in Cambodia - which is perhaps why the NGO community in Cambodia turns a blind eye to Citipointe's illegal activities.

Chanti, Kevin, James and Srey Ka

When Citipointe realised that legal threats would not silence me, Pastor Brian Mulheran sent me a letter (see Pastor Mulheran's letter to me on this blog) that contained a thinly veiled threat to have me arrested, jailed and prevented from visiting Cambodia ever again if I did not cease and desist from my public accusations that Citipointe church had stolen Rosa and Chita from their parents.

Chanti and baby # 6 Poppy

It is extraordinary that Pastor Mulheran would put such a threat in writing, but he did! All bluff and bluster, of course, but indicative of the lengths that fraudulent NGOs will go to to avoid critical scrutiny of any kind in a public forum. Without NGOs being held accountable here will always be some, like Citipointe, that take advantage of this fact.

Chanti, Srey Ka, James, Chhork and Kevin

If you are rich and powerful in Cambodia (as Citipointe is) you can intimidate critics and journalists and break the law with impunity - knowing full well that the corrupt judicial system that prevails in this country will deliver the verdict required by whichever party in a court case pays the judge the largest bribe. 

Chhork bathes Kevin

Whether simple common sense prevailed in the mater of Pastor Mulheran's threats or whether Citipointe realised that having me arrested and jailed in Cambodia (God knows on what charges!) would be a bad public relations move on the church's part, I have no idea. I remain free! There has been no knock on the door! 

Poppy and her grandmother, Vanna

Chanti's family is poor, but no more so that the vast majority of Cambodians who live on less than $1000 a year. Right now (Feb. 2014) garbage collectors in Phnom Penh are on strike. They want to be paid more than the $65 a month they currently receive. I imagine that many of these garbage collectors, finding it close to impossible to feed their children on such a wage, could be easily deceived by Pastor Ramsay with her offers to help! "We will help you take care of your daughters, just place your thumb print here." There are many young girls in Cambodia whose parents live on less than $1000 a year and who are ripe to be 'rescued' by Citipointe on the grounds that they are at risk of becoming 'victims of human trafficking'. This 'risk' of course, applies to every girl in Cambodia who has the misfortune of having poor parents.

Chanti, Srey Ka, Kevin, James and Chhork

Chanti and Chhork's children are well fed - which is more than can be said for the 40% of Cambodians who are malnourished. And they go to school every day - though the school, like so many in Cambodia, leaves much to be desired and could use an injection of funds of the kind that Citipointe could contribute if the church adopted a policy of helping children within their communities. Instead, Citipointe, like so many NGOs in Cambodia, removes poor children from their families and house them in large institutions - creating the illusion that these children do not have families, both immediate and extended, and communities that can take care of them

Srey Ka, Kevin (a joker, with an aversion to clothing!) and James

Chanti and Chhork are very good and loving parents. And Chanti's mother, Vanna, is a doting grandmother who devotes each and every day either to caring for the children, or to cooking and cleaning. A recent X-ray revealed that she has a serious, and probably life-threatening, medical condition. Will Citipointe offer any financial or medical assistance? The answer is no. The church makes a point of offering no assistance at all for the family. In Oct 2008, Citipointe's Rebecca Brewer offered the following reason for not providing assistance - despite its promises to both myself and Chanti that it would do so: 

“Our focus is to assist the children in our care as needed and the work we do with the parents is limited. If we were to be seen giving handouts to one individual parent it could prove very disruptive to the rest of the community.”

And so it is, that NGOs such as Citipointe, can guarantee that the families whose children they 'rescue' remain in poverty - thus providing the NGO with justification for keeping the child - a child that can then be used to raise money, not for the family of the child but for the NGO. This form of exploitation is commonplace in Cambodia but even LICADHO, so quick to admonish the government for its human rights abuses, remains silent when it comes to NGO human rights abuses.

Chhork's father, 3rd from right, at his daughter's (and Chhork's sister's) wedding

There is no reason, in Feb 2014, why Citipointe should keep Rosa and Chita against the wishes of their parents. The church provides no reason, no justification for its continued detention of the girls. And the relevant government department - the Ministry of Social Affairs - refuses to provide any reason why it does not insist that the church return the girls to their family.


Amongst the various human rights abuses practiced by Citipointe is the church's brain-washing of Rosa and Chita to become Christians - audio-visual evidence of which I have plenty of. By what right does Citipointe to force Rosa and Chita to become Christians? By what right does the church refuse to allow these girls to participate either in the Buddhist ceremonies practiced by the rest of their family or in cultural celebrations of any kind that the rest of the family engages in - such as the recent Chinese New Year celebrations. 

Citipointe church is engaged, no doubt for reasons that it finds noble and in accordance with its religious beliefs, in the alienation of Rosa and Chita from their family, their religion and their culture. Citipointe is not alone in this.

James, Srey Ka, Poppy and Chanti

Rosa and Chita's visits to their family, always supervised by church personnel, are limited to a few hours every couple of months. These visits are rarely announced in advance. Chanti and Chhork are told, just a few hours beforehand, that a visit will occur. They have no choice but to be available for such a visit. And, because they love their daughters and relish any opportunity to see them, they acquiesce to Citipointe's wishes; to Citipointe's schedule.  

Kevin, aged 3

Citipointe keeps promising to return Rosa and Chita to the family but such promises have been empty for more than five years now and each and every time such a promise is made, yet again, Chanti gets her hopes up - only to have them dashed when it transpires that Pastor Leigh Ramsay has, yet again, lied to her and Chhork. 

Srey Ka, Poppy and Chanti

The discredited social engineering experiment that saw Aboriginal children removed from their families last century, and referred to now as members of a 'stolen generation' is alive and well in Cambodia. The stealing of children is practiced by Citipointe and other NGOs in the 'rescue' business - be it 'rescuing' girls from the sex trade or 'orphans'.  Yes, there are girls and women that need to be rescued fro the sex trade and there are a few (very few!) genuine orphans in Cambodia - enough, alas, to make it easy for NGOs such as Citipointe to present themselves as engaged in 'rescuing' when in fact they are involved in kidnapping.

Any genuine and self-respecting NGO that valued its reputation would be outraged by my various 'kidnapping' and 'stealing references'. They would not just be getting their lawyers to send threatening letters. They would be commencing proceedings. Citipointe does not and will not! The church counts on the silence of the NGO community, the silence of LICADHO and the lack of investigative journalism in Cambodia to keep the story of the church's kidnapping of poor girls out of the public eye. And Citipointe has succeeded admirably. So far!

Citipointe is not the only Australian NGO removing the children from poor Cambodian families under the most questionable of circumstances and using them to raise money though donors and sponsors - a subject about which I will write more in the not too distant future. Suffice it to say, at this point, that once an NGO in the 'rescue business' has got a few hundred 'rescued children' in its institution it is then well-placed to have a TV program made about the wonderful work it is doing and so guarantee that the dollars will keep flowing into its coffers.

Chhork and three of his sisters who live in the same village

This final photo is of three sisters of Chhork's who live in the same village as Chanti and Chhork – along with their husbands and children. All up, there are 7 of Chhork’s siblings living in this village, plus his father. An extended family. The women all help each other take care of their many children. Yes, they are all poor, but they love their children and, like so many other poor Cambodians, should not be tricked, by NGOs such as Citipointe church, into giving them up to be brought up in institutions. If Citipointe genuinely wanted to assist in the alleviation of poverty in villages such as Chanti's the church would help whole families, entire communities to become self-sufficient. It is well known and understood that it costs around 5 times as much to keep a child in an institution as it does to support that child within a family and community context. 

Poppy, Jan 2014


  1. Citipointe pay woman in minister of social affairs to keep Roza and Cheata. She not good woman Mrs Leigh. make mother cry when take babies and keep.

  2. Mr Ricketson, you efforts to help this family retrieve its kidnapped daughters is admirable but, I hate to tell you, doomed to failure. NGOs such as this church kidnap the children of poor families with the same impunity that the government steals whatever it can from the Cambodian people. Pec, above, speaks the truth. I know this from the experience of being asked, in my capacity as an NGO, to pay money to a senior official within the Ministry of Social Affairs, in order to continue with my work. I refused to pay and was confronted by obstacles in my work so great that I eventually gave up in disgust and despair. NGOs need a constant supply of victims of one kind or another in order to justify their existence and there are many poor parents who are deceived in this way to give up their children, little realising that they will not see them again until they reach the age of 18 and are kicked back out onto the street to make way for a new batch of victims. The NGO industry feds on this traffic in human misery and keeps its mouth shut because questions asked of Citipointe church could lead to questions being asked about their own NGO. Embarrassing questions that could, if enough of them are asked, lead to the exposing of a huge scam that allows NGOs to live in luxury. Good luck with your attempts to help this family but do not get your hopes up. If the church has more money than you to pay bribes Citipointe will win and the girls will be spat out of the church's money making machine when they turn 18

  3. Pec, please make contact with me. My email address is

    I would like to talk with you about what you know.

    'Anonymous', above, yes I am aware that the practice of 'stealing' children under false pretences is fairly common and practiced by some large NGOs that have good reputations internationally and raise millions of dollars by boasting just how many children they have 'rescued'. One, in particular, flies cute children to the United States to have them dance for Hollywood celebrities to boost donations. In the meantime, the parents of children who have been 'rescued' still work in the rubbish dump! The orphanage scams and those practiced by the likes of Citipointe church are well known to all within the NGO community but, as you so rightly point out, it is not in their best interests to invite too many questions as to how they spend the money they raise through sponsorships and donations. If the 75% of children in orphanages who are not orphans were returned to their families, their communities, there wold not be enough genuine orphans to support the 300 or so 'orphanages' in the country. If 75% of 'orphanages' closed down (which, it stand to reason, they should) 75% of NGOs in the rescue business would be out of a job. No NGO working in this field wants to be amongst the 75% who loses their job so best to remain silent about the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Citipointe churches of the NGO world.