Monday, May 11, 2015
# 117 Closing down fake 'orphanages' and 'rescue homes'
HE Vong Soth
Ministry of Social Affairs,
Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation
#788, Monivong Blvd.
11th May 2015
When will the Ministry of Social Affairs close down fake ‘orphanages’ in Cambodia?
When will the Ministry of Social Affairs tell NGOs running fake ‘orphanages’ that they must return ‘orphans’ to their families?
Why does the Ministry of Social Affairs allow NGOs to operate ‘orphanages’ in which 75% of the children have at least one living parent and in which close to 100% of children have families that could care for them if they had the appropriate support?
Fake ‘orphanages’ can be broken into three categories. They are run by:
(a) unscrupulous NGOs exploiting poor Cambodians to make a profit.
(b) evangelical Christians who force Cambodian children to abandon their Buddhist religion and culture
(c) foreigners who believe Cambodian parents are incapable caring for their own children.
All three categories of NGO are exploiting the material poverty of the Cambodian people and using images of children to induce well-meaning sponsors and donors to open their hearts and their wallets.
When will this exploitation end?
When the Ministry of Social Affairs does close fake orphanages, you need to take into account that many NGOs do not refer to the children in their institutional care as ‘orphans’ but do treat them as ‘orphans’.
In the case of Citipointe Church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’, run by evangelical Christians from Brisbane, Australia, Pastor Leigh Ramsay refers to the girls in institutional care as ‘victims of human trafficking’ – despite the fact that very few, if any, of the girls in the church’s care have been rescued from the sex trade.
Citipointe church tricks materially poor parents into placing their thumb prints on a ‘contact’ they cannot read and do not understand. The church then tells the parents that Citipointe now has legal custody of their daughters. The parents, who have no idea of their legal rights, believe that they have no choice but to give up their daughters.
This is a form of kidnapping and is contrary to Cambodia’s Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation:
Article 8:Definition of Unlawful Removal
The act of unlawful removal removal in this act shall mean to:
1) Remove a person from his/her current place of residence to a place under the actor’s or a third persons 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 to take a minor person under general custody or curatorship or legal custody away from the legal custody of the parents, care taker or guardian.
Article 9: Unlawful removal, inter alia, of Minor
A person who unlawfully removes a minor or a person under general custody or curatorship or legal custody shall be punished with imprisonment for 2 to 5 years.
Why are the Christians such as Pastor Leigh Ramsey not charged in accordance with Cambodian law with the illegal removal of children from their families?
Scott Neeson’s Cambodian Children’s Fund, run by another Australian, is yet another fake orphanage. Mr Neeson does not refer to the 700 or so children he has in institutional care as ‘orphans’. They are presented to donors and sponsors as children who do not have parents who can take care of them. This is not true. These children have very poor parents who require financial assistance when they fall upon hard times or because they are locked in a poverty cycle that they cannot extricate themselves from.
The Cambodian Children’s Fund takes advantage of the vulnerability of these very poor families by offering to help take care of their children. The parents think that this is a very generous offer and do not hesitate to sign a ‘contract’ given to them by Mr Neeson. Once the ‘contract’ has been signed, however, Mr Neeson, who does not provide the parents with a copy of it, tells the parents that he now has control of their children. If the parents want their children returned to their care have nowhere to turn for assistance when Mr Neeson refuses to do so.
I believe it to be essential, in protecting the rights of both parents and children, that parents be allowed to retain copies of any contracts they enter into with NGOs such as Citipointe church and the Cambodian Children’s Fund. The parents should be encouraged to show copies of these contracts to others who can offer them expert advice on the fairness or unfairness of the terms and conditions contained in them. Parents need to be informed that they have a right for their children to be returned to their care if they wish; that the contracts they have signed do not give an NGO to take control of the children’s lives.
Whilst requesting that Mr Neeson return the 700 fake ‘orphans’ in his care to their families you might ask him also to explain why it is that he tells the US Tax office it costs the Cambodian Children’s Fund $4,000 each year to provide accommodation and education to one child. As you know, $4,000 is more than double the amount of money it would take to support the entire family of one child in institutional care.
Scott Neeson will tell anyone who is prepared to listen that he is very well connected to powerful people in the Cambodian government. This may well be the case but these ‘powerful people’ should be ashamed of themselves if they are aiding and abetting in the break up of Cambodian families.
Future generations of children removed from their families by unscrupulous NGOs will one day ask you and others in your government, “Why did you allow this to happen?”
All NGOs running orphanages, even if they do not use the word ‘orphan’ should to told to present your Ministry, in the near future, with a detailed plan of:
(a) How they intend to re-integrate these fake orphans back into their families and communities over the next year
(b) How they intend to assist these children from materially poor families in the years to come.
It will be interesting to see how many of these NGOs continue with their ‘charitable’ work under these circumstances. I suspect that many of them will close their doors and move to another part of the world where they can steal the children of materially poor people with impunity. This will almost certainly be the case for evangelical Christian NGOs if they no longer have the opportunity to force their Christian beliefs on Cambodian children.
I find it hard to see what benefits there are for Cambodia in allowing the exploitation of Cambodia’s poor in this way. Yes, there may be some corrupt officials whose incomes are boosted by turning a blind eye to the clear breaches of Cambodian law practiced by these NGOs but Cambodian society, Cambodian culture loses out by having so many of its young people alienated from their families, their villages, their culture and religion whilst unscrupulous NGOs either make a lot of money or win souls for Jesus Christ.
I hope that the day comes when these children, removed from their families in a manner that is at times illegal and at others immoral, take the NGOs responsible to court and sue them for the emotional damage they have inflicted on themselves and their families.
The policy of removing children from their families in the belief that it was in the best interests of the children to be institutionalized, was tried in Australia for more than a century. This experiment in social engineering failed so badly, caused so much emotional and psychological damage, that the Australian government had to apologize, a few years ago, for the creation of what we refer to in Australia as a ‘Stolen Generation’.
There is a ‘Stolen Generation’ of children being created in Cambodia and history will either look back on you as the person who brought this cruel practice to an end or as one of those who perpetuated it.