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Social affairs ministry urges caution for charity donors

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Chhour Sopanha, director-general of the National Social Assistance Fund, at a press conference on August 18. RGU

Social affairs ministry urges caution for charity donors

A senior official at the Ministry of Social Affairs Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation strongly discouraged organisations from “inventing” victims in an attempt to raise funds.

He urged donors to provide assistance to genuine victims by cooperating with the ministry, which was preparing a new mechanism that would ensure help was provided to those who were genuinely in need.

Chhour Sopanha, director-general National Social Assistance Fund, made the calls at an August 18 press conference held to announce the ministry’s achievements of the previous five years. He said ministry officials had investigated several such stories in the past and discovered that there were cases where details were invented to garner sympathy.

He said the ministry thanked all donors, but reminded them to investigate where their funds were going.

“Some victims had been helped, but other cases had been created to try to exploit people’s generosity,” he said.

He used the example of social media posts which claimed to be raising funds for people who were living in terrible circumstances. Often, a bank account number was given, with the promise that any money that was transferred would be used to help people. There was no way to verify that such cases were real, he added.

He said that in some case, there were people who were genuinely in need of assistance, but there money raised was not shared with them, meaning they were being exploited.

“The ministry is conducting a study of ways to make sure that funds raised in this way reach victims and that they are supported in the correct way,” he added.

Sopanha said that when the ministry learned of an appeal on social media, it would investigate the case and determine if the impoverished people had applied for IDPoor cards, and whether they were eligible for government support. He also encouraged people to apply for the cards if they felt they needed the support.

“I respect the generosity of many of these donors, but they have to consider whether their money is actually helping someone, or if the image or story of a poor person is being exploited by conmen,” he said.

He said that donors should contact the ministry as it has a working team who would take donations to verified victims right across the Kingdom.

“What I want to stress is that nobody should be exploiting the poor and the generous public to make themselves money. If you want to help, do it the right way – through the ministry,” he said.

The ministry said that in the five year span from 2017-2022, it had worked with the Cambodian Red Cross and other NGOs to provide support to 280,292 households which had been affected by natural disasters or extreme poverty.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, said he supported donations for the poor, especially if they were to be done through the IDPoor card programme, which is transparent.

“There are two likely outcomes to giving donations to people, especially through social media. Firstly, some people raise funds and donate it directly to people who are really in need. The second possibility is that amoral individuals used photographs of impoverished people and used them to appeal for donations. This is fraud,” he said.

Kim Vibol, deputy director of the Prey Veng provincial branch of Pagoda Children Intelligentsia and Student Association, said his organisation had provided support to impoverished families.

The association, he added, only helps at the request of village and commune authorities, who must have witnessed extreme poverty with their own eyes.

“As a matter of principle, we don’t use images of the people we support in order to raise funds from the public. We only take donations from people who we are sure can afford to help us, and we only help those who are genuinely needy,” he said.

He said his association made donations of materials such as rice, noodles, fish sauce, mosquito nets, and occasional small cash payment.

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