Thursday, February 27, 2014

"…accused Mr. Jame Ricketson, male, aged 64, Australian, 
of prostitution..."

For more than five years now I have been attempting to get Brisbane-based Citipointe church to return the two young girls (Rosa and Chita) it removed illegally from their family in 2008. The church has threatened twice to sue me for defamation, has threatened to have me arrested, charged jailed and banned from coming to Cambodia and, in its latest attempt to intimidate me into silence, is accusing me of ‘prostitution’!

Leigh Ramsey
322 Wecker Road
QLD 4152                                                                                          

28th Feb 2013

Dear Leigh

I arrived back at my hotel to find a policeman waiting with a warrant for me. It was written in Khmer, a language I do not read, though I could read the date it was issued – 26th Feb. The policeman could not speak English but indicated with hand gestures that I should sign th document with my thump print. I refused. The policeman, a pleasant man on an unpleasant errand, became a little agitated and, through a not-so-good interpreter at Reception, explained to me that an ‘organization’ had filed a complaint against me. (‘Which organization could that be, I wondered?) I had to sign the document or I would be arrested the policeman said, indicating this with his wrists held together as if hand-cuffed. Yet again I declined to sign it. I explained as best I could that I was not signing with my thumb print a document whose contents I could not read. If nothing else, I have learned from Chanti’s 31st July 2008 mistake!

The policeman accepted the logic of my argument. I had a photocopy of the original document made and took it to a professional translation service. Later in the evening I had an English version of it. The relevant part reads:

…accused Mr. Jame Ricketson, male, aged 64, Australian, of prostitution (the act frustrating the protection, assistance, or correction by the organization) committed in Phnom Penh in 2010 according to article 25 and 26 of the law on suppression against human trafficking and sexual exploitation. order Mr. Jame Ricketson, male, aged 64…to appear at Phnom Penh Municipal court at questioning room “M” 3rd floor on 07 March 2014 Time at 2:30 PM In order to question the case of prostitution (the act frustrating the protection, assistance, or correction by the organization). The above person shall bring all documents concerning with the case, if any. In case the above name fails to appear on the schedule, we will issue the arrest warrant.

It brought a smile to my face to think that the Phnom Penh police are seriously entertaining the proposition that there are customers in Cambodia wishing to pay a 64 year Australian to service them sexually. This way of financing my filmmaking had not, I must confess, occurred to me to date!

Either my translation is a very bad one or the court document is very unclear in what it is trying to communicate. Questions abound. What ‘case’ is the document referring to? Without knowing what the ‘case’ is it is a little difficult to know what documents I am supposed to bring along? And even if I did have an inkling of the ‘case’ being referred to, do I bring English versions of the documents or Khmer?

As to which ‘organization’ the court document refers to, there can only be one answer? It has Citipointe’s finger prints (thumb prints!) all over it. At last Citipointe is making good on the threat that Pastor Mulheran made to have me arrested, jailed and banned from coming to Cambodia again. In truth, Leigh, I would be delighted to be arrested for ‘prostitution’ and see the prosecution run a case based on this charge. Even in Cambodia I think that the prosecutor would find this one difficult! The story would make it into newspapers in Australia and, at last, the media might take an interest in your church having essentially stolen Chanti and Chhork’s daughters, Rosa and Chita in 2008 - with the blessing, as it turns out, of the Global Development Group.

Leigh, go to my new blog site and have a look at the photos of Chanti and Chhork’s home, of their tuk tuk, of their rice paddy, of their healthy and happy children:

What possible reason could Citipointe have, in Feb 2014, to hang onto Rosa and Chita? Yes, they are both very attractive young girls and I am sure they are great money-spinners for the church. Who could look at these two girls (I am thinking Citipointe’s ‘poverty tourists’ here), hear that they are ‘victims of human trafficking’ and not open their wallets. The poor girls! How they must have suffered! How much do you need?

You are engaged in a scam, Leigh, and I hope that my arrest (for I will certainly not turn up in court on 7th March) will lead the media, in both Cambodia and Australia, to start asking some of the questions I have been asking of your church this past five years. I have, for more than two weeks now, been asking these same questions of the Global Development Group - whose funding of the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ and other NGOs in breach of the human rights of impoverished Cambodians, raises serious doubts about GDG’s competence and integrity and questions about how $25 million of Australian tax-deductible dollars are spent each year.

My main concern now is, when pressure is brought to bear on Citipointe and you have no choice but to return Rosa and Chita to their parents, that you will then need to find two other young ‘victims of human trafficking’ to take their place. This will be done with the tacit approval of the Global Development Group though its lack of appropriate assessment and monitoring processes. It will occur with the tacit approval of the Australian Council for International Development also – an organization whose Code of Conduct reads well but is, in reality, useless in the real world. When the parents of the new ‘victims of human trafficking’ who have been recruited by Citipointe realize that they have been tricked, to whom will they turn? Even if they have heard of the Global Development Group, Geoff Armstrong will refuse to have any member of his GDG team in Phnom Penh meet and talk with them. Even if these parents have heard of ACFID, how can they possibly make a complaint to the organization given that ACFID will not accept oral representations and these parents will almost certainly be illiterate.

If there were any justice in Cambodia your ‘SHE Rescue Home’ would be closed down by the Cambodian government (along with many other sham NGOs) and you would be facing serious charges that carry a jail sentence.

I look forward to my arrest. It is the best news I have had in weeks!

I am copying this to the Global Development Group, complicit (through willful ignorance, at least) in your scam, and to ACFID, whose Code of Conduct appears to be merely for the purposes of public relations and means nothing in the real world in which the Chantis and Chhork’s of the world are exploited by greedy self-serving NGOs. These NGOs are, simultaneously, exploiting the generosity and good will of donors who give generously to NGOs such as the Global Development Group.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Australia's misconceived plan to offload refugees onto Cambodia

The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600                                                                                      

24th Feb 2014

Dear Minister

Why would a wealthy country like Australia even consider offloading refugees that arrived in Australian waters onto a poor country like Cambodia?

Cambodia is a country in which 40% of children are malnourished; a country in which one in five live below the poverty line; a country which, year after year, is voted one of the most corrupt in the world; a country in which the Hun Sen regime’s response to garment factory workers on strike, seeking the $160 a month wage that the government itself acknowledges is the bare minimum needed for survival, is to call in heavily armed soldiers shoot to kill? These soldiers, none of whom have been charged, belong to an army that receives military aid from Australia. And this army is controlled a government that receives around $100 million in aid from Australia each year – a substantial part of which winds up directly and indirectly lining the pockets of corrupt politicians.

Is Australia’s $100 million being spent to alleviate poverty in Cambodia or is it contributing, along with donor dollars from elsewhere in the world (up to $1 billion a year), to propping up what is essentially a dictatorship?

As I mentioned in my last letters to you of 26th and 29th Jan, receipt of which has not been acknowledged by your office, you need only look at some of the footage available to you online to get some sense of the sheer scale of the Hun Sen regime’s human rights abuses. And this is the government into whose care you wish to entrust refugees who arrived on Australian shores?

Will 40% of the child refugees joint the ranks of the malnourished? Will one in five of the refugee families that are deported to Cambodia live below the poverty line? No, it will be considerably more than one in five because these refugees will arrive in a country that has no social services to speak of, a country in which they do not speak the language, a country in which there is so little work for Cambodians that garment factories can get away with paying garment workers just half of what is required to survive?

It is hard to imagine why Australia engages in diplomatic relations at all with a government whose victory in the July 2013 elections is in very serious doubt. Every independent observer of the elections acknowledges that fraud on a massive scale occurred. Many countries, including Australia and the US congress, called for an independent investigation into the election results. Then, last October, Prime Minister Tiny Abbott congratulated Hun Sen on having won elections that few outside the Cambodian People’s Party believe he won. Was it in October that the Tony Abbott government conceived this plan to offload refugees onto Cambodia?

“We will cease our calls for an independent investigation of the election results, Mr Hun Sen, and pump another $100 million into the Cambodian economy next year in foreign aid if you will help us with our refugee problem?”

Is this the reality behind the spin that will ultimately be presented to the Australian public if this deal is sealed? Given that you did not take questions at your Phnom Penh press conference, we in the media will never have an opportunity to put this question to you and get an answer.

Not only is your plan to offload refugees onto Cambodia an abrogation of Australia’s duty of care for people who arrive on our shores seeking refuge, not only is it inappropriate to ask a poor country to shoulder the burden and prop up a corrupt government in the process, it is also virtually guaranteed to fail. And when it fails there will be plenty of representatives of the media in Cambodia, including myself, who will inform the Australian public of this failure – in all likelihood at a time when the Abbott government is trying to convince the Australian public that its policy of stopping the boats has been a success.

You should abandon this misconceived idea immediately.

best wishes

James Ricketson

for audio-visual evidence of just how the Hun Sen regime deals with peaceful protestors, visit:

LETTER TO HON JULIE BISHOP dated 26th Jan 2014

The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600                                                                                       26th Jan 2014

Dear Minister

Whilst Australians celebrated Australia Day, the people of Cambodia suffered yet another setback in their quest to become a functioning democracy.

A peaceful demonstration was to have taken place today in Freedom Park, the only public space that the Hun Sen government allows protests to occur - to demand the release of 23 striking garment factory workers held after a demonstration on 2nd Jan which saw 5 workers killed by the Cambodian army. Why the Cambodian army should be present at a demonstration by strking factory workers is a question the Hun Sen government refuses to answer. Why the Australian government provides military assistance to the Hun Sen government is a question I would like to ask?

The protestors arrived at Freedom Park this morning to find several hundred armed military personnel, police black helmeted security guards with batons and cattle prods. The following video speaks for itself of the lengths that the Hun Sen government goes to prevent freedom of assembly and freedom of speech – both of which rights are enshrined in the Cambodian constitution:

Compare what you see in this video record of events with the observations made on the Department of Foreign Affairs website:

“Despite democratic freedoms in Cambodia, there are periodic reports of intimidation and political violence.

There are no democratic freedoms in Cambodia other than those that Prime Minister Hun Sen decides, on a whim, to allow.  ‘Reports’ is an inappropriate euphemism to use in relation to the countless images and video clips to be found online that bear witness to actual acts of intimidation and violence. Here is just one that you might like to look at:

The Hun Sen regime is, to all intents and purposes, a dictatorship, supported to the tune of around $100 million a year by Australia in foreign aid – some of which goes to a Cambodian military that shoots and kills garment factory workers on strike demanding to be paid $160 a month for their work. This is $40 a week or a little over $6 a day or 60 cents an hour. The workers who are asking to be paid 60 cents an hour provide we Australians with the cheap clothing to be found at Target, Big W, Coles and other retail outlets. They deserve our support. They deserve the democracy that the Cambodian constitution guarantees them. These workers and others in civil society engaged in the fight to secure their democratic rights of freedom and assembly and speech deserve meaningful support from Australia in the form of a cessation of all aid until there is an independent investigation into the killing of the garment factory workers such that the killers and those who gave the orders to shoot to kill can be brought to justice.

best wishes

James Ricketson

LETTER TO HON JULIE BISHED, dated 29th Jan 2014

The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600                                                                                       29th Jan 2014

Dear Minister

Today, in my role as filmmaker, I followed a small group of Cambodian human rights activists as they moved from embassy to embassy around Phnom Penh. They were delivering petitions requesting the international community to put pressure on the Cambodian government to release from prison of 23 striking garment factory workers arrested earlier this month. Four or five of their co-workers were killed when Cambodian soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators.

The authorities tried to prevent the petitioners from walking from embassy to embassy and it seemed for a while that they would again, as they did on Tuesday 27th, use brute force to prevent the rally from continuing. Violence was averted when the human rights activists told the authorities they would not walk but would deliver their petitions by tuk tuk. And so they did for the next couple of embassies but before long they were walking en masse – in defiance of the authorities. The police and the black-helmeted security guards maintained their distance, keeping a watchful eye, but had clearly been instructed not to use violence today.

Decisions to either use violence or not are made by Prime Minister Hun Sen, as I am sure you will be aware. One day he is Bad Cop, the next Good Cop. One day his police, army and baton-wielding Darth Vader look alikes are beating people up, the next standing by, zapping their electrified cattle prods to intimidate Cambodians demonstrating peacefully on behalf the jailed factory workers.

The clearest indication of how this stand-off will play itself out is to be found in a statement made recently by Hun Sen’s son, Hun Many:

“I might not be able to contain the CPP youth and supporters any longer…Their hearts are burning with hatred toward the leaders of the CNRP from listening to the barking, cursing and insults to the CPP leaders and especially to the Prime Minister.”

And in a message to  ambassadors yesterday, CPP National Assembly President Heng Samrin had the following to say:

“All ambassadors should know what happens and react promptly to any activities deemed scornful or aggressive in manner to the nation.”

What is the attacking and beating of Cambodian’s peacefully protesting if not “aggressive in manner?” As for responding with violence to “activities deemed scornful”, no comment needs to be made. Please, Minister, search out and view the many images and video clips available online that reveal how the authorities deals with ‘scornful’ Cambodians; with ‘barking, cursing’ protestors who insult Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Given the amount of foreign aid provided by Australia to Cambodia each year I believe it would be appropriate for the Australian government to publically condemn the violence being perpetrated by Cambodian authorities against Cambodian protestors who are exercising their constitutional right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

best wishes