Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Orphanage director held on child sex abuse charge

Orphanage director held on child sex abuse charge

Orphanage director held on child sex abuse charge

A Phnom Penh municipal court prosecutor has charged the head of a city orphanage

with sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl in his care. Path Non, the director of

the Cambodian Light Children's Association (CLCA), appeared in court to hear the

charge on November 27.

Colleagues have also alleged that thousands of dollars of donor funding has disappeared.

Similar allegations surfaced around one year ago, but the police did not investigate,

saying that was an internal matter for the association.

Path Non was arrested on November 25 by police from the Ministry of Interior's anti-human

trafficking and juvenile protection unit. Deputy chief Phuong Sophy said the MoI

investigated Non early this year, and had concluded recently there was sufficient

evidence to charge him with sexual abuse.

"The girl said her breast was squeezed and her legs were crossed around Non's

thighs," said Sophy. "The president of an association should not do such

a thing."

Witnesses had told the police that Non had abused another girl at CLCA, but that

she later ran away from the orphanage.

"I could not find the girl," said Sophy. "But I believe we will find

more girls who were abused by him."

Path Non, who is in Prey Sar jail awaiting trial, denied the allegations of abuse.

"I just woke her up," he told the Post. "Someone must have instigated

her [to complain]."

CLCA's acting director, Dutch national Billy Barnaart, said he did not know whether

the sexual abuse charge was true, but said it was clear that funds had been mismanaged.

He had asked Non for two years to explain those allegations, but had received only

half of a report from Non, who had suggested he speak to the association's accountant.

Barnaart said he had encouraged foreign donors to support the orphanage since 1996,

but did not know how much money it had received since no credible financial reports

had been prepared.

Within the past two years he had passed on a total of $10,000 in donations from a

Dutch school and a German businessman. Barnaart said that when he asked Non about

the money, he was unable to provide records to account for it. In one case he knew

of, Non had kept a $25 monthly donation from a Chinese businessman.

He said other funding came from Telstra Bigpond, which pays for the children's schooling,

and a lottery company providing rice. CLCA's accountant, Sok Lyna, said other donations

had come from King Norodom Sihanouk and government officials.

Further funds were raised through orphans giving dance performances at restaurants

and when on provincial tours.

"I brought [these donors] to CLCA to gain financial support so that it would

become sustainable," Barnaart said, "rather than have them depending on

revenue only from the child-ren's performances, which sounded like child exploitation.

"Nobody is able to tell me properly where the money went," he said. "I

don't know how much [they earned]. They have performances here and there and at the

center, but they never registered the money they got. I am still waiting for that,

[because] I have to be responsible to the donors.

"I have always asked them for appropriate financial reports," Barnaart

continued. "They gave me receipts from daily expenditures on food, which I checked

and found they were incorrect. The chicken at CLCA is more expensive than the chicken

we buy."

CLCA's Sok Lyna, who is married to Non's nephew, dismissed the corruption allegations.

She said an accounting system was unnecessary since all expenses were unanimously

approved by CLCA staff.

"Would the children and others allow us to embezzle money?" she asked,

adding that revenues from performance and donation were insufficient. "These

are only allegations."

Barnaart said a transparent financial system was essential "so that donors can

be assured the money is used for the children's benefit". He said he was very

worried for the safety of the children and wanted them moved to a new facility.

CLCA was founded by Path Non in 1995 in a slum at Bassac commune and provides education

and classical dance lessons to most of the 62 poor children and 13 orphans under

its care.

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