Tuesday, April 1, 2014

letter for Alison Burrow, Australia's Ambassador to Cambodia, dated 2nd April 2014

James Ricketson
Europe Guest House
# 51, Street 136
Phnom Penh
015611478; 017 898 361

Ms Alison Burrow
Ambassador to Cambodia
Australian Embassy
16B, National Assembly Street
Sangkat Tonle Bassac
Lhan Chamkamon,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia                                                                                

2nd April 2014

Dear Ambassador

Following on from my letter to you of 3rd March.

This morning I will appear in the Phnom Penh Court to be sentenced in relation to Citipointe’s latest attempt to have me, to quote the church’s Pastor Brian Mulheran, ‘forcibly removed’.

As you know from previous correspondence, I received no summons or warrant notifying me that court proceedings were to occur on 14th March.  I was in Australia at the time. Since my return to Cambodia to appear for sentencing today it has not been possible for me to find out what accusations Citipointe has leveled at me other than what I have read in the newspapers – namely that I have ‘blackmailed’ the church. The Phnom Penh court will not provide me with any information, despite my having written two letters to the court and made two personal visits to it. Citipointe church will not tell me, despite several written requests to the church this past 10 days.

Your Embassy has been of no use either. At midday yesterday I wrote to Mignon Bleach, Second Secretary & Consul, asking the following question:

“Could you please, as a matter of urgency, find out what I have been charged with and why no summons or warrant were ever delivered to me? Could you please find out what evidence Citipointe church has provided in support of the allegations that I threatened to 'blackmail' the church?”

Mignon’s response, at 4.49 pm was:

“If you wish for the Embassy to seek information from officers of the court regarding your current legal status, we will require your full consent to the disclosure of relevent personal details about you and information concerning your situation and/or whereabouts to representatives or our contacts of the court.”

The court was due to close in ten minutes.

At midday 1st April I also wrote, to Mignon:

 “Nor has the Embassy done anything to acquire, from Citipointe church and/or the Global Development Group a copy of the 2008 and 2009 MOUs which, according to Citipointe and the Global Development Group, gave the church the right to remove and detain Rosa and Chita in 2008. It is abundantly clear that no such MOUs exist. This fact, were it to be known to the court tomorrow, would result in the case being thrown out. Why does the Embassy not ask for copies of the MOUs?”

I have asked Foreign Minister Julie Bishop several times for assistance in securing copies of the MOUs. I have received no response from her office.

At midday yesterday, 1st April, I was very specific in my request:

“Could the Australian Embassy please, at this last minute, acquire from Citipointe or the Global Development Group copies of the MOUs and any other documents relating to the removal of Rosa and Chita and forward these to me before the end of business today. In this way I will have something to present to the court - along with my recommendation that Citipointe be charged with illegal removal and detention of Rosa and Chita.”

I have been alerting the Australian Embassy for five years now to the fact that Citipointe church illegally removed Rosa and Chita from their family in 2008 and detained them against the express wishes of their parents. The same applied for the parents of other girls illegally removed by the church at the same time – crimes for which Pastor Leigh Ramsey, Rebecca Brewer and Helen Shields could be jailed for two years if there were any rule of law in Cambodia. The Australian Embassy has made no effort this past five years to secure from Citipointe evidence that the church had a legal right to remove the girls. The legality or illegality of the church’s actions can only be determined by looking at, reading, the 2008 and 2009 MOUs that both Citipointe and its funding partner the Global Development Group (GDG) claim gave the church the right of removal.

The Australian Embassy clearly does not see its role as in any way monitoring the activities of Australian-based NGOs – not even when there is clear evidence that they are in breach of Cambodian law; in breach of AusAID rules and of the Australian Council for International Development Code of Conduct. The Australian Embassy, in turning a blind eye to these breaches and to the breaches of the human rights of parents like Chanti and Chhork, has given fraudulent NGOs such as Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ a green light to steal children. And now, having discovered how easy this is to do right under the noses of Embassies, of AusAID, of ACFID, Citipointe is exporting the church’s evangelical child stealing model to India – to be financed with tax-deductible Australian dollars! The church and its backers, the Global Development Group must be laughing all the way to the bank.

You can no longer claim ignorance of what is going on, Alison. You Have ample evidence at your disposal to, at the very least, insist that Citipointe produce evidence of the legality of the church’s actions in relation to the removal of Rosa and Chita. If you do no, you are, from here on in, personally implicated, by turning a blind eye, by asking no questions, by failing to insist on being provided with copies of MOUs, in Citipointe’s crimes in Cambodia.

In 2009, before your time, there was a whole community of materially poor Cambodians living next door to the newly built Australian Embassy. They were known as the Group 78. When it became clear that they were to be evicted by City Hall and their land stolen from them by rich and powerful cronies of the Prime Minister, as has happened for countless thousands of Cambodians, the Australian Embassy said nothing. There were no voices of protest raised. No support at all (not even moral) was provided to the community and one morning armed police and sledge-hammer wielding thugs arrived to destroy the community. I was there to film it. You can view what I shot here:

Today, what was once a community, is now a vacant lot, home only to weeds. In this vacant lot there could, today, be a thriving community made up of those whose homes were destroyed by City Hall in 2009 if the Australian Embassy, along with others in the international donor community, had insisted upon it. The problem is that Australia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not insist on anything. Under both Labor and Liberal governments Australian tax-payers prop up the Hun Sen dictatorship to the tune of $100 million a year in foreign aid. No Minister of Foreign Affairs has had the guts to say to him, “This money is to alleviate poverty, to improve education, to help stamp out corruption, to aid in the protection of those few natural resources that have not yet been stolen. And we expect the Cambodian government to abide by its own laws and not kill peaceful garment factory workers etc.”

No, Australia attaches no conditions at all to the delivery of $100 million in aid. The message that Australia sends to the Hun Sen regime is, “Do what you like. It is your country and far be it for us to interfere with the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. You want to steal the land and homes of your own people, no worries! You want to intimidate and kill your own citizens, hey, none of our business, this is your country. You want to allow fraudulent NGOs to come to your country and steal children well, we’d rather you didn’t allow this but don’t worry, we are not going to say so publicly. And if one such NGO wants to use a corrupt judicial system to jail a critic of these child-staling scams, fear not. We will, of course make a few carefully worded public statements about the ‘rule of law’ and ‘due process’ etc but we will not criticize the government. Promise. Now how much money do you need this next financial year?”

Each year, after the international donor community has paid half of Cambodia’s bills and got nothing in return Hun Sen and his cronies must think all their Christmasses have come at once! “After all these years Australia and other international donors continue to prop us up and are prepared to accept the same vague promises of reform we have been making this past 20 years.”

Mignon also wrote to me yesterday:

“Should you find yourself in police custody or another situation which requires consular assistance in accordance with the consular services charter, please do not hesitate to contact the Embassy.”

Given that the Australian Embassy could provide no support when I was lying on the road being guarded by six police intent on stealing my phone, what possible ‘assistance’ could the Embassy provide me if I were in police custody? The support I have needed this past five years was in relation to Citipointe church’s having stolen Chanti and Chhork’s daughters. The support the Group 78 community required back in 2009 was for its neighbours, the Australian Embassy, to stand up for its right to live in its homes on land that it was entitled to live on in accordance with Cambodian law.

If and when I am in police custody there will be nothing the Embassy can do and, to be frank, the Embassy is the last place I would go to for any form or support. If you wish to provide real support you can, this morning, obtain from Citipiointe church and/or the Global Development Group copies of the 2008 and 2009 MOUs. If they did not give the church the legal right to remove Rosa and Chita in 2008 you can issue a Press Release to this effect. If the church refuses to provide you with copies of the MOUs you can issue a Press Release to this effect. If this occurs before I am sentenced it might give the judge reason to pause before imposing whatever sentence he has in mind.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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