The director of an orphanage in Siem Reap that was shut following allegations of sex crimes against children at the facility yesterday accused the Ministry of Interior of failing to thoroughly investigate Cambodia Orphan Fund before shutting it down last month.
“What the Ministry of Interior did is confusing. They only listened to one side of the dispute. They should have asked me to answer the allegations before deciding to close my orphanage,” Chan Reaksmey, a former soldier with no training in child protection, told a press conference yesterday.
He alleged that children at the orphanage, which had employed several of his relatives, had been grabbed by a rival NGO that wanted to set up its own orphanage. “Everything happened because two men wanted to take over my position and my NGO’s property. They just wanted to destroy my NGO,” Chan Reaksmey said. Cambodia Orphan Fund had been registered with the Interior Ministry as the NGO that operated the orphanage.
He said that the ministry had not made an independent inspection but had acted solely on a report from provincial authorities. He also claimed he should not be held responsible for crimes at the orphanage committed while he was in jail.
Chan Reaksmey was referring to a report that alleged that a teenage boy at the orphanage had molested five children under the age of 10 while Chan Reaksmey was being detained on charges of allowing children from the orphanage to be taken out of the facility without supervision. He was detained from late October last year until late January this year when the charges were dropped. The NGO’s former director Nicholas Griffin, however, was sentenced to two years in prison earlier this year for raping a child.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the NGO had been shut down following an investigation by provincial officials who had been tipped off that something was awry at the orphanage by the Spanish Embassy in Phnom Penh.
The embassy had received complaints from Spanish citizens who had given donations to the orphanage, he said. “What we did was try to find justice for children and the spirit of their deceased parents.
They were being victimised at the orphanage,” Khieu Sopheak said. “I would like to ask to Chan Reaskmey what he would think if his children became orphans and were sent to an orphanage and raped.
Should that NGO be closed or not?”
Ouk Piseth, executive director of Together For Cambodia, which Chan Reaksmey accused of destroying his NGO, said he knew nothing about the issue.
Last week the government released its first set of national standards for the care of orphans and vulnerable youths. International child welfare agencies, including Unicef, have expressed concern over the surge in the number of orphanages in Cambodia.