We are so happy that the Phnom Penh Post is interested in and supportive of the arrest
of Michael Ruckriem, the German tourist charged with debauchery on March 18, 2004.
I would like to make a few comments about the article that was written, as it may
be misinterpreted in an offensive way by the casual reader.
First, and most important, the M'Lop Tapang child rights play was named by the street
kids as "Barang Ot Laar" The translation for this is The Bad Barang, not
as the Post translated, All Foreigners are Bad. We certainly do not believe this,
the kids are not taught this attitude, nor do we want others to think we are prejudice
in any way. A group of concerned foreigners started M'Lop Tapang and still work for
the organization along side Khmer colleagues.
Second, the article implied that we were encouraging the kids to use vigilante tactics
to address the problem of child sexual exploitation in our community. The play was
written, directed and named by children from the M'Lop Tapang center from role plays
they developed on sexual exploitation of children. The play concludes with street
kids escaping an abuse situation, and telling trusted Khmer friends who take them
to a M'Lop Tapang outreach worker for advice and counseling. It teaches that there
are organizations that support children so they never feel on their own and empowers
them to respond safely to abuse situations.
Last, the article implied that M'Lop Tapang pressured the police to take on this
case. In reality, the abused kids went to the police themselves; it was only later
that day when the police informed M'Lop Tapang that we knew anything about the incidents.
We continue to support the children through the difficult prosecution process, with
an emphasis on their personal welfare.
M'Lop Tapang believe that only by building bridges between law enforcement, NGOs,
families and the children themselves can we combat sexual exploitation of children.
We continue to develop a positive relationship with anti-trafficking police, the
courts and other NGOs so that everyone is clear of their proper roles. M'Lop Tapang's
role in this process is to support the kids and families, educate the whole community
in child rights, and ensure any abused kids receive counseling and social services.
Our next street theatre play teaches about the risks of substance abuse. The kids
are starting to voice their ideas already.
Maggie Eno - M'Lop Tapang - Sihanoukville