Monday, March 31, 2014

Advice for Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, in how to keep NGOs accountable when they remove children from families

Chhork, Chanti and kids in the family tuk tuk

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

Canberra ACT 2600                                                                          

31st March 2014

Dear Minister

Citipointe has finally agreed to relinquish control of Rosa and Chita. Hopefully, the process of re-integration will be handled along the lines I suggested in my letter of 28th March. 

Neither Citipointe nor any other NGO should be allowed to remove children under  the circumstances that prevailed in 2008. Might I suggest that:

(1) All NGOs in receipt of AusAID approved tax-deductible funds provide the Australian embassy with copies of the MOUs they enter into with the Cambodian government.

(2) Copies of these MOUs, in Khmer, be provided to the parents or close relatives of families whose children have been removed by NGOs.

(3) Copies of these MOUs, in Khmer, be provided to the Village and Commune Chiefs of the children removed, along with the reasons for the removal.

Grandma Vanna with freshly bathed Kevin

(4) Children placed in the care of Australian NGOs, and their parents or close relatives, have their rights and responsibilities in relation to such MOUs explained to them in language they understand.

(5) Removed children and their parents/relatives be provided with a written document (in Khmer) in which their rights and responsibilities are outlined – particularly in relation to what the parents must do if they wish to have their children returned to their care.

(6) Removed children and their parents be provided with a toll-free phone number  within the Australian embassy to call if they believe that their rights are being breached in any way by the NGO into whose care the children have been entrusted.

(7) Children and their parents or relatives have explained to them that their complaints will be dealt with impartially and that they need not fear retribution from the NGO.

Chhork, Srey Ka, Poppy and one of the family dogs

Had such a system been in place five years ago, Chanti and Chhork could have lodged a complaint with the Australian Embassy in Nov 2008. With just a few questions the Australian Embassy would have discovered that:

(a) The 31st July 2008 ‘contract’ Pastor Leigh Ramsey tricked Chanti into signing was not a legal document; that Pastor Ramsey had lied when she told Chanti that the ‘contract’ gave the church the right to detain Rosa and Chita until they were 18.

(b) Citipointe had not entered into an MOU with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that gave the church the legal right to remove Rosa and Chita in July 2008.

(c) Citipointe’s lawyer and the police had threated to put both Chanti and Chhork in jail if they again attempted to ‘kidnap’ their daughters from the ‘SHE Rescue Home’.

Chanti talking  on her mobile phone and Kevin

(d) Rosa and Chita, the daughters of Buddhist parents, were being forced by Citipointe to go to a Christian church, in breach of AusAID guidelines vis a vis proselytizing.

(e) Chanti’s visitation rights to her daughters in 2008 were tied to her attending church also.

(f) Citipointe had limited Chanti and Chhork’s visiting rights to their daughters to a total of 24 hours each year – these visits to be supervised by church staff at all times.

There is much more that the Australian embassy would have discovered in Nov 2008 but the above would have, should have, set alarm bells ringing. If Chanti and Chhork’s allegations were revealed to be true the Australian Embassy would have been able to let Citipointe know, in no uncertain terms, that the church was in breach of AusAID rules and the ACFID Code of Conduct.

Chhork, Srey Ka and James

Had such due diligence been applied in 2008, five years of angst for Chanti, Chhork, Rosa and Chita could have been avoided. Had such basic guidelines been in place in 2008 Citipointe would have had to think twice before acting as it did in relation to Rosa and Chita’s removal and indoctrination and the threats of jail leveled at Chanti and Chhork. The same applies to other Australian based NGOs in receipt of AusAID approved tax-deductible funds engaged in proselytizing, the removal of children from their materially poor families and the use of these children to raise money through sponsorships and donations.

With no independent assessment or monitoring of the activities of NGOs in Cambodia all manner of human rights abuses are possible. There are many which take advantage of this fact to (a) proselytize and (b) exploit Cambodian poverty for their own financial gain.


The filmic evidence I have suggests that in Nov 2008 there was not one girl resident in the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ who was a ‘victim of human trafficking’; that all of the girls in the Home were from poor families whose parent (or parents) had been induced, as Chanti had been, into placing their thumb prints on a phony ‘contract’ and then told that they had signed away their daughters until they were 18 years old. How many of these parents, poor and powerless, with no knowledge of their legal rights, with no-one such as myself to advocate on their behalf, believe to this day that they have lost their daughters until they are 18? How many of these bereaved parents know that Citipointe church is presenting their daughters to potential sponsors and donors as ‘victims of human trafficking’ and reaping substantial financial rewards in the process?

Rosa and Chita's mum and dad with (from left) Kevin, James, baby Poppy and Srey Ka

The exploitation of Cambodian poverty by Australian-based NGOs should come to an end but this will not happen unless or until AusAID rules are respected, the ACFID Code of Conduct is adhered to and the recipients of aid are provided with the mechanisms whereby they can complaint about any human rights abuses they may suffer at the hands of NGOs.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Rosa and Chita's dad - a non-drinking, no-smoking, non-gambling gentle man who adores his children and whose heart has been broken by the loss of his two eldest daughters.

Rosa and Chita's healthy and very happy youngest sister, Poppy

Rosa and Chita's sister, Srey Ka, whom they only get to see rarely during visits supervised by church personnel

Friday, March 28, 2014

to Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister re court date of 2nd April and family reintegration, dated 28th March 2014

Rosa and Chita's brothers - James and Kevin
- and sister Srey Ka

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

Canberra ACT 2600                                                                          

28th March 2014

Dear Minister

I have, this morning, attended Phnom Penh court with my Case Number – provided to me by Pastor Brian Mulheran. Brian has not, however, provided me with any indication of what I wrote and when I wrote whatever it is that the church considers to be ‘blackmail’.

The court has informed me that the evidence is no longer relevant since I have already (on 14th March) had an opportunity to respond to the church’s accusations. That I did not know that there was a court case on (no summons, no warrant), that I was in Australia at the time, is a matter, I have been informed, for my lawyer to take up with the judge before sentencing.

Rosa and Chita's father (Chhork), brothers Kevin and James, mother (Chanti, holding Poppy), sister (Srey Ka) and grandmother - Vanna

I will not have a lawyer, I will be representing myself, I informed the court. It is not possible, I was informed. “In Cambodia you must have a lawyer.”

With or without a lawyer I will be attending court on 2nd April but will not be participating in any legal proceeding in the absence of the 2008 and 2009 MOUs. If these MOUs point to Citipointe having acted in accordance with Cambodian law in removing Rosa and Chita, the church may have the makings of a ‘blackmail’ case. If the MOUs do not, there is no case to answer and Citipointe should be charged with ‘illegal removal’.

Rosa and Chita's sister, Srey Ka, whom they only get to see rarely during visits supervised by church personnel

(I have searched through my correspondence from April 2013 in search of evidence of my attempt to ‘blackmail’ Citipointe and the closest I have been able to come up with is a series of questions I asked of Pastor Leigh Ramsey – to be found at:

In order to avoid bad publicity for Citipointe (my being convicted of ‘blackmail’ on 2nd April) the church is moving with lightning speed now to get Rosa and Chita back to their family. After five years of refusing to implement any re-integration program, the church now, it seems, wishes to bypass such a program and dump the girls back with their family as soon as possible - in the hope, perhaps, that the question of the legality of the church’s removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008 will magically disappear. Then, free of any scrutiny, accountable to no-one and with both AusAID and ACFID asleep at the wheel, the church will be free to fill Rosa and Chita’s beds with two other girls from materially poor families – two more souls to be harvested for Jesus Christ; two more girls the church can present to donors and sponsors as ‘victims of human trafficking’ or at risk of same. The breakup of these girls’ families and their enforced conversation to Christianity will be financed, through the Global Development Group, with tax-deductible Australian dollars.

Rosa and Chita's mum and dad with (from left) Kevin, James, baby Poppy and Srey Ka

Returning Rosa and Chita to their family with unseemly haste would be a big mistake. This would be obvious to anyone with professional experience in child welfare, child protection and the complexities of re-integration after six years of Pentecostal indoctrination.

On 12th March, in a letter to the Global Development Group and Citipointe church, I included the following re re-integration:

…Citipointe and GDG can, of course, proceed down the path of intimidation if you so wish. Who knows, you may even find a Judge prepared to put me in jail and so fulfill your prophesy, Brian. This will only serve to draw maximum attention to Citipointe’s illegal removal and detention of Rosa and Chita in 2008. In many way, though I do not particularly wish to find myself in a Cambodian jail, my incarceration  would, at least, make this story newsworthy and you would all find yourself being asked a whole range of questions that you would prefer not to answer by print and TV journalists.
Rosa and Chita have missed out entirely on the first 15 months in the life if their youngest sister, Poppy

An alternative path to go down would be, in the most gracious way possible, with whatever saving of face your respective spin doctors can conjure up, to admit that you have, separately and in unison, broken Cambodian law by illegally removing Rosa and Chita from their family and abrogated the human rights of Chanti and Chhork’s entire family. You could acknowledge this and return Rosa and Chita to their family and that would be the end of it. Chanti and Chhork want nothing more than to get their daughters back.

Here is how it could happen with a minimum of trauma for Rosa and Chita:

(1) Rosa and Chita leave the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ and take up temporary residence in a non-denominational NGO home of some kind that has no affiliation with Citipointe.

(2) A sensible re-integration program is formulated by professionals experience in the complexities inherent in re-integration with the best interests of Rosa and Chia in mind.

(3) Over a period of a few months Rosa and Chita are (a) allowed visits to their family in Prey Veng and (b) their bothers, sisters, mother and father are allowed  visits to them in the non-denominational NGO in which they are now residing.

(4) This process of gradual re-integration is monitored and adjusted to take into account unforeseeable problems by professionals who know what they are doing.

(5) As this gradual re-integration process is taking place a second dwelling is be built on Chanti and Chhork’s property in Prey Veng. There is room for a second house and I will pay for the construction of it so that Rosa and Chita can have some of the personal privacy that I imagine they are accustomed to in the ‘SHE Rescue Home’.

(6) During this gradual re-integration process I will be looking into the various options open to Rosa and Chita to guarantee that they get a high quality education. This is a goal that I wish for all of Chanti and Chhork’s children. Srey Ka, James and Kevin are, at present, attending a private school in Prey Veng at my expense because the school in their village is not adequate to provide them with a good education.

It may well be that the only way that Rosa and Chita can get a high quality education is by going to a school in Phnom Penh. If so, I am in a position to pay their school fees and their boarding fees if necessary.

(7) Only when the re-integration process has achieved the above-mentioned goals should Rosa and Chita be returned to the full time care of their parents. This is not because Chanti and Chhork are anything other than good parents. It is an acknowledgment that the re-integration process will throw up problems, challenges, that must be met with the best interests of Rosa and Chita at heart.

Given the heartache that Citipointe church and the Global Development Group have caused Chanti, Chhork, Rosa and Chita, I think it appropriate that both NGOs compensate the family. My suggestion is as follows:

(a) A trust fund be set up by Citipointe and GDG to pay for the education of all of Chanti and Chhork’s children.

(b) This trust fund should be administered by a completely independent NGO with no affiliation with GDG, with Citipointe or with myself. It’s sole aim would be to pay legitimate school and university fees into the future. If, for whatever reason, any of  the 6 children drop out of school, the family receives no compensation for their education.

(c) If all 6 children go on to university their fees are paid for by GDG and Citipointe.

I stress, I will not and should not be involved in any way with the administration of this trust fund. And nor should GDG or Citipointe. It is imperative that the NGO controlling the funds is totally independent of all of us.

The fine tuning of the above suggestions will take some time but are achievable if there is a will, on the part of all parties, for some variation of them to be put into practice to see Rosa and Chita are re-integrated back into the family in the most appropriate way; in a way that minimizes  the traumatic impact of their being taken out of the world that they have lived in for close to six years and returned to the world of their family (nuclear and extended), the world of their community and the world of their Buddhist culture and religion.

Rosa and Chita's dad - a non-drinking, no-smoking, non-gambling gentle man who adores his children and whose heart has been broken by the loss of his two eldest daughters.
If both Citipointe and the Global Development Group agree to the broad outlines of what I am suggesting here, perhaps the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) could play the role of independent arbiter – with the intention of guaranteeing the well-being of Rosa and Chita and with no regard at all for the vested interests of Citipointe, of the Global Development Group or myself.

I await your response to this letter with interest!

I received no response to this letter from either Citipointe or the Global Development Group. The entire letter can be found at:

Srey Ka, James, Kevin, Chanti and Poppy in the family tuk tuk

I am not an expert in either child welfare or re-integration so it may be that some of what I have suggested above is impractical or misconceived. I will certainly defer to those with more experience in these matters than I have. If the re-integration of Rosa and Chita back into their family is not handled with sensitivity by experienced professionals, great harm could be done to both girls and, by extension, the entire family.

Given that the illegal removal of the girls has been perpetrated with the tacit approval of AusAID, I believe it would be appropriate for AusAID to do all it can to see to it that an appropriate re-integration program is instituted by qualified professionals. Such a program should be laid out in writing so that everyone involved in the delicate process is aware of their rights and responsibilities – Chanti and Chhork, Citipointe church, the Global Development Group and myself.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Rosa and Chita's healthy and very happy youngest sister, Poppy