Sunday, November 20, 2016

$ 212 Does LICADHO turn a blind eye to the removal of 1000s of Cambodian children from their families by NGOs?

Dear Dr Kek Galibru

Why does LICADHO turn a blind eye to the removal of thousands of Cambodian children from their families by non government organizations?

‘Google’ “Licadho orphanage policy”, for instance, and the most recent LICADHO policy document that comes up come up is a Jan 2002 paper entitled:


Google “licadho orphanage tourism and “licadho cambodia orphanages” and the results are meagre:

Cambodia Daily on 8th April 2013

“…observers of Cambodia’s orphanage industry say the growing orphanage sector is borne more out of poverty than a lack of parents…

…With almost every third Cambodian still living below the poverty line, parents struggling to survive in rural areas are easily persuaded into giving their offspring to an orphanage in the city that promises to provide food and education.

Chao Leak Vanna, provincial coordinator for Licadho, said that fraud, mismanagement and abuse are common inside orphanages….running an orphanage, Ms. Leak Vanna said, has become a lucrative business due to the high number of Western tourists wanting to add an element of altruism to their holiday.

“In general, it’s a good business model and the founders can make a fortune with it,” she said, adding that in some scenarios she has even seen the director’s own children posing as orphans.”

If “fraud, mismanagement and abuse are common inside orphanages” why does LICADHO remain silent about such abuses in late 2016?

A more recent google result (Global Post, 21st July 2014) reads as follows:

“More than 9,000 children living in orphanages have at least one remaining parent.By advertising them as orphans and showcasing their plight, however, good money is to be made. In Cambodia, orphanages can be lucrative, multi-million dollar businesses, according to major rights group Licadho and other Cambodian rights watchdogs.”

If there are indeed 9,000 children living in orphanages who have at least one living parent, why does LICADHO have no policy regarding the removal of children from their families by NGOs? Is not such removal a human rights abuse?

And, as far as I can tell, LICADHO also has no policy regarding ‘orphanage tourism’? Why not? Does LICADHO approve of  ‘orphanage tourism’ or is it opposed?

If LICADHO is, indeed, a ‘watchdog’, the dog is asleep and not doing its job when it comes to the children of impoverished families who are pawns in NGO money-raising scams.

Or is there a policy and I have simply been unable to find it online? If this be the case could you please direct me to it? And please direct me also to any recent statements from LICADHO that I might have missed in which Cambodia’s pre-eminent human rights NGO actually advocates the rights of children to live with their families; for disadvantaged children to be assisted in a family and community context?

That you have clearly been aware of this problem is to be found in a 9th March 2007 Phnom Penh Post article:

“According to activists and NGOs, "orphanage tourism" is a growth industry.

Tour guides, tuk-tuk drivers and motodups now regularly include "orphanage tours" in their pitch to visitors, and many take a subsequent cut for their troubles.

At the orphanages, the visitors are greeted by children who dance and sing, while the managers appeal for donations to help fund the orphans' care.

But rights groups and protection agencies are becoming increasingly critical of the poor regulation and monitoring of orphanages, with those that actively solicit tourists of greatest concern.

"This kind of 'orphanage tourism' raises many questions," Kek Galabru,
founder and director of rights NGO Licadho told the Post. "Are visitors properly screened and supervised to ensure the safety of the children? What financial accountability is there to guarantee that donations actually go toward the care of the children? How can an orphanage which relies on day-to-day donations possibly ensure long-term, good quality care of children?"

Whilst LICADHO pulls no punches in criticizing human and legal rights abuses practiced by the Cambodian government, why does LICADHO have so little to say about human and legal rights abuses practiced by non government organizations? Why does LICADHO not actually do something to prevent such abuses?

A few years ago you tried, Dr Gaibru, to help me secure the release of two young girls illegally removed from their family by Citipointe Church’s SHE Rescue Home. This removal and illegal detention received the tacit approval of Naly Pilorge, of Helen Sworn (Chab Dai) and Geoff Armstrong, of the Global Development Group. (This is all well documented).

I am thankful for the assistance you provided me personally and it is a pity that you, las for myself at the time, were unable to persuade the SHE Rescue Home to give up the girls in illegal detention. Their release was achieved a couple of years later when Citipointe Church, having arranged for me to be tried in absentia for having “threatened to dishonor” the church, eventually gave up their fight and, one afternoon, simply dumped the girls back with their family – with a bag of rice and two second hand bicycles.  No reintegration program, no explanation, no offer of assistance. Nothing. After having held the girls for six years illegally!

In a country in which there were rule of law, in a country in which judges, the judiciary, were not for sale, Pastor Leigh Ramsey would have faced kidnapping charges and be liable for a jail sentence. In Cambodia, however, the kidnapping of children is condoned and made possible by the silence of so many who should speak out, including LICADHO.

There were no consequences for Citipointe as a result of breaking Cambodian law and the church continues to remove girls from their families with impunity. As you know, if you have money, whether you be a politician, a businessman or an NGO, you can do as you please in Cambodia and no-one will stop you or even speak out against you in public.

I contend that Scott Neeson’s Cambodian Children’s Fund has likewise broken Cambodian law in a variety of ways – all well documented on my blog. Most of these breaches of the human and legal rights of Cambodian’s, most of Neeson’s scams, could be independently confirmed by anyone who spent an hour or two doing some internet research and asking a few questions of Scott Neeson.

Other CCF breaches of the human and legal rights of parents and children could be confirmed by anyone who bothered to speak with children and parents who have been on the receiving end of CCF ‘assistance’. I have invited LICADHO (and AD HOC) along with journalists from both the Phnom Penh Post and Cambodia Daily to meet some of these families and find out for themselves. These offers have been ignored and I wonder why?

Is Scott Neeson untouchable because be is part-owner of the Phnom Penh Post, well connected politically and/or a major contributor to LICADHO? Neeson has the money to buy whatever and whoever he pleases and I can’t help but wonder if, in some way, he has bought the silence of LICADHO?

Are not the human rights of (approximately) 9,000 children removed from their families, Dr Galibru,  of sufficient importance to LICADHO to at lest warrant speaking with their families?


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

# 211 Scott Neeson's Excellent New York Adventure

Scott Neeson, recently returned to Cambodia from his excellent New York Adventure.

Scott Neeson & Heather Graham (CCF board member) in New York for gala fundraising event

Scott’s amazing troupe of Performing Cambodian children (“See them laugh, see them cry, hear their inspirational stories of being rescued from their families by Saint Scott”) opened many a wallet in the Big Apple last week.

Now its back to normal for Scott, working on his biography, wining and dining donors and sponsors in his restaurant, Black Bamboo, whilst the Performing Cambodian Children return to their dormitories.

Scott couldn’t resist the opportunity to remind his Facebook followers how wonderful he is and what a tremendous sacrifice he made when he gave up his Hollywood mogul lifestyle to move to Cambodia.

The Cambodian Children’s Fund is still not registered in New York (as it should be, by law) but when you have lots of money (and CCF has more than lots) such problems can be easily overcome.

Charity fraud is rife in the US, where it is incredibly easy for anyone to start up a charity.

There are 1.1 million charities in the United States

The charitable sector employs approximately 13 million people.

Charities take in over $1.5 trillion each year in revenues I have assets approaching 3 trillion.

The US Government also provides an enormous amount of indirect support by exempting charities from income and property taxes and providing deductions for charitable donations.

Market incentives of the nonprofit world push charities like the Cambodian Children's Fund towards happy anecdote and inspiring narrative (Performing Cambodian Children) rather than toward careful planning, research, and evidence-based investments.

So it is that NGOs like Neeson's Cambodian Children's Fund rely on public relations, press releases, happy photos of smiling kids etc to sell the feel-good stories that keep the donor dollars flowing in.

There is no-one (literally no-one) to ask Neeson for any evidence at all of the effectiveness of his programs. All he needs to do is tell sponsors and donors that CCF is a success story and they lap it up and open their wallets.

Steve Tisch

Sponsors and donors should not be so lazy. They should ask questions. They do not want to, by and large. They get a warm fuzzy feeling from saving kids from poverty and maybe know that this warm fuzzy feeling would not be available to them if they looked too closely at what actually goes on (the removal of children from their families)  as opposed to what they would like to think goes on.

John and Cammie Rice

For the high end players in this game – multi-millionaires like Steve Tisch and John and Cammie Rice - the advantages are many. They get a huge tax break as a result of giving money to CCF. They also get the warm fuzzy feeling that accompanies doing 'good' in a third world country – rescuing children who, Scott tells them, have no family that can look after them as well as he can. And, of course, Steve, John and Cammie (and other wealthy New Yorkers)  get to meet and hang out with celebrities like Heather Graham and Salman Rushdie. "As I was saying to Salman a few weeks ago..."

Bob Tufts, CCF board member

That human rights groups in Cambodia, along with the media, turn a blind eye to all this makes them complicit in the human and legal rights abuses that occur as a result. When the history of this era of unrestrained NGO exploitation of impoverished Cambodian families is written, human rights organizations, along with the media, will quite rightly, come in for their fair share of the blame for the mass theft of children from their families.