Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Orphanage fights back against criticism

Orphanage fights back against criticism

Orphanage fights back against criticism

An Australian-run orphanage in Battambang province, under investigation by police and rights organisations, has denied claims it is mistreating children.

The facility has instead claimed a protest by children last week that sparked the investigations was incited by social workers who wanted to oust the director and take her job.  The orphanage is also pointing the finger at teens who are not orphans but stay at the facility because their families live too far from a high school for them to live at home.

“Most of these children do not respect the Centre Rules and Regulations,” an undated letter from Hope for Cambodian Children said. These breaches include smoking, drinking beer and watching
pornographic video clips on their cell phones, the letter said. It also alleges that older children have “shared the sex videos [with] small kids who have seen and [then] drawn [pictures] of them”.

The letter is signed the orphanage’s children’s welfare manager, Romel Flores, its donor representative Erwin Liban, its assistant donor representative, Peter Butler, and thumb printed by Cambodian staff. It is a response to letters of complaint sent late last month by children to commune officials.

Dy Samrach, the orphanage’s director, told The Post yesterday that about 30 residents from 16 to 22 years of age had been incited to protest by five social workers who were vying for her job. “A handful of staff are jealous of me and want my position,” she said, adding that the five social workers had been suspended for one month while the orphanage conducts an investigation.

Most children at the centre are now banned from using cell phones. The letter from the orphanage said the phone ban was imposed to prevent the viewing of pornography. Previously, some had called newspapers to appeal for assistance, saying they were hungry and were not receiving money for school fees.

In a separate letter from the Australia-based Hope for Cambodian Children Foundation that supports the orphanage, its chair Jenny McAuley said she “emphatically rejects” media reports that “residents are not being properly fed and the allegations of corruption”.

“The director has spoken to the young people involved and their families. If a resolution cannot be reached the young people are free to return to their communities,” McAuley said.

The orphanage’s website, however, claims that the children it cares for have been “abandoned by their families and community because they have or are suspected of having HIV/AIDS”. The foundation’s fundraising efforts in Australia build sympathy for the children by suggesting that Cambodian communities and Cambodian-run orphanages have rejected them because they have AIDS.

According to Unicef, the number of orphanages in Cambodia has doubled over the last six years to 269. Some charge tourists fees for the opportunity to volunteer at them. Friends International has said that “orphanage tourism” has contributed to surge in the number of orphanages and “orphans”, many of whom have at least one parent.

Kim Tieng, director of the provincial department of social affairs, veterans and rehabilitation, said his office cooperated with police and rights group Licadho to investigate the centre, but he had yet to receive a report. Sangke district police chief Puth Bunthoeurn said he had asked officers to investigate but he had yet to receive a report.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VINCENT MCISSAC

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,