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Orphans angry at alleged mistreatment

Orphans angry at alleged mistreatment

A GROUP of orphans are angry about the way they have been treated in their

French NGO-run orphanage, saying they are fed badly, cheated on money and had no

water or electricity for six months.

Twenty orphans - all studying at

university under a program run by Les Enfants d'Angkor orphanage - say that the

reports provided by the Khmer manager of the orphanage to Paris "are a pack of

lies."

In a joint letter of complaint, the students say the woman manager

Kim Chantha - who also manages the Renakse hotel - was "living in grand style"

while they "...have hardly anything to eat."

Kim Chantha denied the

complaints when interviewed by the Post.

She said she would give

everything necessary to the students "and if they come up with more problems we

will settle that."

She said she paid the students up to 10,000 riel a

month, though the students claim that often they received less, and some months

none at all.

She also said that recently she had approached the students'

universities to arrange free tuition for them. However, the students say they

still have to rely on loans or gifts of money from their friends to pay study

fees.

Orphan Yim Deth, originally from Kompong Thom, said he left the

orphanage in 1993 after a strong argument with Kim Chantha. He said she tricked

provincial orphans to come to her orphanage, then persuaded them to work in her

hotel cheaply.

He wrote a letter of complaint to the NGO head office in

France and the association sent two people to investigate.

He said

Chantha told them she had chased Deth out because he was involved in

politics.

"Actually, I told them that I had decided to leave myself

because I couldn't endure her inhuman activities. Being a student, we have

enough brain to think. We can distinguish between what is right and

wrong."

Deth said that the French staff went home but nothing happened to

Chantha.

The students' complaint says that the NGO's information

bulletins said that enough food, clothes, school materials and support is

provided to them.

However, the orphanage cook told the Post that she

received only 12,000 riel a day to cook lunch and dinner for 20 students. "But

we rarely have breakfast," said one orphan, "and then only a packet of instant

noodles."

Chantha said that the students complained of endless problems

but she tried to balance and maintain a "medium living condition."

"They

cannot live in a noble life. Only the poor can live in this condition," she

said.

She said she had recently dismissed three students who she claimed

were undisciplined, and that the dismissal was approved by the Social Action

Service.

The other students said the three had complained about poor

conditions.

One orphan said he had been given one shirt and one pair of

trousers in his four years there, and when he complained he was told "It is

better than during the Khmer Rouge."

Chantha had recently bought a

generator that operates for three hours in the morning. The group complained

that the lack of night-time electricity made it difficult for them to study.

Prior to the generator being brought, they had to wash themselves at neighbors'

houses or in the river.

"For the few of us who dare to talk now, we are

already on the blacklist to be kicked out," said one.

"We are afraid to

talk. I don't want to be involved in this but I agree with what you are saying,"

said a newcomer, walking away from the interview.

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