Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Letter to Cambodian Judge explaining why I prefer arrest to appearing for questioning this Friday

Baby Poppy,  Chanti  and her husband Chhork, have waited in Phnom Penh for 2 weeks to speak with a representative of the Global Development Group (GDG) - the Australian based NGO that delivers tax-deductible funding to Citipointe church's 'SHE Rescue Home' - the Australian based NGO that illegally removed Chanti's two eldest daughters from her care in 2008. GDG refuses to speak with the parents of Rosa and Chita or to look at any evidence in support of the illegality of Citipointe's actions

Poppy and Chanti March 2014

Poppy and Chhork, March 2014

James Ricketson
Phnom Penh

Mr Phou Pov Sun
Investigating Judge
Phnom Penh Municipal Court
Criminal Case number 3730                                                                                      

5th March 2014

Dear Mr Phou Pov Sun

In relation to the Court Order presented to me on 28th Feb, I wish to make the following observations:

- I do not speak or read Khmer

- The translation I had made of the 26th Feb Court Order did not clarify (a) the organization that had laid the charges or (b) the precise nature of the charges.

I have now received 3 different interpretations of what the court document asserts:

(1) I am being charged with being a prostitute

(2) I am being charged with posting pornography on my blog

(3) I am being charged with hindering Citipointe church in its attempt to help prostitutes.

Given that both (1) and (2) are demonstrably untrue, I will concentrate on (3), bearing in mind that I must rely on information presented to me a journalist; not by the court.

Rosa at home with her mum, Chanti, and grandmother, Vanna, six months before being 'rescued' by Citipointe church

Is Citipointe suggesting that Yem Chanty’s daughters, Rosa and Chita, were prostitutes in in 2008 when the church removed them from the care of their family? Rosa was aged six at the time; Chita aged three.

If 6 year old Rosa and 3 year old Chita were prostitutes in 2008, why were no charges brought against their parents at the time? Why has there never been, in any correspondence between myself and the church this past five years, any suggestion that Rosa and Chita were prostitutes in 2008 or at any other time?

If Rosa and Chita were not prostitutes then Citipointe’s accusation has no merit, unless the church is referring to my having hindered the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ in its attempts to help other prostitutes in its care.

Has Citipointe presented the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with any evidence in support of the proposition that that I have ‘hindered’ the church in its attempts to help these prostitutes? If so, on what dates did such ‘hindering’ occur? And in what way was I ‘hindering’?

If you, as Judge, have no evidence before you that Rosa and Chita were prostitutes in 2008,  or that I have ‘hindered’ Citipointe in its attempts to help prostitutes in the church’s care, Citipointe has engaged in vexatious litigation and should be charged with defamation.

Chanti teaching Rosa to count in English

Citipointe’s accusation is in line with a not-so-thinly veiled threat issued to me in a letter by Pastor Brian Mulheran on 21st Feb 2013

“Using the law is the last thing that we want to see happen, because for you to be convicted of a crime and serve a sentence may mean that you will never have the opportunity to re-enter Cambodia again.”

Citipointe‘s accusation in Feb 2014 is the church’s attempt to intimidate me into ceasing my advocacy on behalf of Yem Chanthy and Both Chhork. I will not be intimidated and will quite happily go to jail if this is what is required to bring attention to the gross miscarriage of justice that has occurred as a result of Citipointe’s illegal removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008.

I have attached a copy of the ‘contract’ that Citipointe church asked Yem Chanthy to sign on 31st July 2008.

Is this, in the opinion of the court, a legal document? Does this 31st July 2008 document give Citipointe church the right to remove Rosa and Chita from their family and detain them in an institution for five years against the wishes of their parents?

Rosa in school before her 'rescue'

Given that Yem Chanthy and Both Chhork have repeatedly asked for their daughters to be returned to their care this past five years, on the basis of what legal document has the church been able to detain Rosa and Chita since 2008? The church claims that its legal right resides in a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Social Affairs. If this is so, natural justice demands that the parents be provided with a copy of this memorandum; that I, as their legally appointed advocate, also be provided with a copy of it. We have not been, despite having asked for copies for five years now.

Step # 1 in the 'rescue' of girls from their families to be transformed into 'victims of human trafficking' - the singalong and prayer meeting down by the river. Chita in the centre, Rosa behind her right shoulder.

If, on 11th August 2008, Citipointe had entered into no legally binding contract with either Chanti or Chhork (the parents) or with the Ministry of Social Affairs giving the church the right to detain Rosa and Chita against the wishes of their parents, Pastor Leigh Ramsey, Ms Rebecca Brewer and Ms Helen Shields are guilty of ‘unlawful removal’ in accordance with Article 8 of Cambodia’s 2008 Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation is quite clear:

Definition of Unlawful Removal

The act of unlawful removal in this law shall mean to:
1) remove a person from his/her current place of residence to a place under the actor’s or a third person’s control by means of force, threat, deception, abuse of power, or enticement, or
2) without legal authority or any other legal justification to do so, take a minor or a person under general custody or curatorship or legal custody away from the legal custody of the parents, care taker or guardian.

Step # 2 - get the girls about to be 'rescued' , the daughters of Buddhist parents, to pray to a Christian God.
If you do not have before you clear evidence that Citipointe had a legal right to tell Chanti, Chhork and myself on 11th August 2008 that Rosa and Chita would remain in the custody of the church until they were 18, the three above-mentioned church personnel should be charged with ‘unlawful removal’.

I will not be attending any interview with any police until such time as I am provided with (a) a copy of any and all documents relating to the possibility that Rosa and Chita, at ages 6 and 3 in 2008, were prostitutes; (b)  evidence that I have ‘hindered’ Citipoine in its efforts to help prostitutes this past five years; (c) evidence, in the form of contracts and/legally binding agreements, that Citipointe church had a legal right to remove the girls from their family in 2008 and (d) that Citipointe has had a legal right to detain the girls and refuse them regular and appropriate access to their family this past five years.

Whilst this may not, strictly speaking, be a legal question, does the Court believe that it is appropriate for expatriate NGOs to force the children of Buddihist parents to adopt the Christian faith, as happens with Citipointe church and with  many other Christian NGOs?

Step # 3 - the reward! Food parcels handed out to all the kids, though it is only the girls that Citipointe intends to 'rescue'

Why do the Cambodian government, the Cambodian courts, allow foreigners to steal Cambodian children from Cambodian families? Why are these NGOs not assisting the materially poor families of these girls rather than removing them and forcing them to become Christians? If you believe that NGOs have this right, if you believe such behaviour to be appropriate on the part of NGOs such as Citipointe’s  ‘SHE Rescue Home’ you can issue a warrant for my arrest for fighting for the right of Yem Chanthy and Both Chhork to bring up their own daughters. Or you could decide, in your deliberations and looking at the evidence, that Rosa and Chita would be better off growing up within family that loves them, within the family they love, than to be growing up within an institution in which they are forced to abandon their Buddhist religion and be indoctrinated into the Christian faith.

Food for everyone who has sat through the singalong and prayer meeting

Do you, Mr Phou Sun, wish to endorse the behavior of those NGOs in Cambodia, of which Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ is but one, who believe that the children of materially poor Cambodians are better off growing up in institutions run by foreigners than within their own families; in institutions run by rich Christians who wish to win souls for Jesus Christ and in the process alienate Cambodian children from their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters, their uncles and aunts, their extended  family, their community, their religion and the traditions of a proud Cambodian culture. 

Step # 4 - food for the parents also to soften them up for the offer about to be made to them to provide assistance to their families
This is what the Khmer Rouge set out to achieve in 1975. Citipoine church, and its paymaster, the Australian based Global Development Group, are the Khmer Rouge of 2014 – with intentions as noble but as misguided as Pol Pot’s.

The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I can find no Khmer equivalent for this aphorism but there are two sayings of Gautama Buddha that are relevant here:

"What's done to the children is done to society."

"He who wrongs the innocent must bear the fruit of his act, like dust flung against the wind."

I await my arrest this coming weekend with a clear conscience.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Cambodia, 2008. Rosa, a few months after she was illegally removed from her family,  along with her sister, Chita, by Brisbane-based Citipointe church. Rosa is holding a silver crucifix out for the church photographer. Church staff  then gave this photo to her Buddhist parents - Chanti and Chhork. 5 years later the church retains custody of Rosa and Chita despite repeated requests from their parents that they be returned to the family. Citipointe is funded by Australian NGO, the Global Development Group

Following is the text of the letter I wrote to Judge Phou Pov Sun – his name, it seems, open to various spellings:

Investigating Judge
Pu Povsun
3rd floor
Phnom Penh Municipal Court

4th March 2014

Dear Pu Povsun

On 24th Feb 2014, Mr Geoff Armstrong, Executive Director of the Global Development Group wrote a letter to me in which he informed me that I had been charged with ‘hindering’ Citipointe church.

I knew nothing about these charges at the time because your court had not charged me yet.

Four days later, on 28th Feb,  I was provided with a document from the court, dated 26th Feb, to let me know that I had been charged.

Whilst it was not easy to understand what I had been charged with, it eventually became apparent that the charge was ‘hindering’ Citipoine church in its attempt to ‘help prostitutes’.

I am interested to know and understand how Mr Geoff Armstrong was able to know about my being charged on 24th Feb - two days before the court document was prepared (26th Feb) and four days before it was delivered to me?

I am interested to know also if there is any suggestion that the ‘prostitutes’ I  have supposedly been ‘hindering’ Citipopinte church in helping, are Rosa and Chita – who were, respectively, 6 and 3 years old at the time they were removed from their family by Citipointe church in 2008.

yours sincerely

James Ricketson

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