I am writing in response to Richard Woodd's article "Virtual Global-PAC keeps
feet on ground in Sihanoukville" (PPP, June 4-17, 2004), and specifically to
Ted Underhill's comments about Gerald Thorns's activities in Sihanoukville.
I did meet with Mr Thorns in late March for approximately one hour. I spoke about
the activities of the Starfish Project and M'lop Tapang (MT), both of which have
garnered extensive coverage in this Kingdom's English-language press, as well as
the Sihanoukville Response Network (SRN) , an embryonic project that is being developed
with the cooperation of Starfish, M'lop Tapang, LICADHO, and concerned Khmer and
expatriate members of the Sihanoukville community to identify and tackle issues of
child sexual abuse in the Municipality.
As a member of the informal advisory boards of Starfish, MT, and the SRN, I informed
Mr. Thorns of our activities, gave a loose outline of our plans, and invited him
to meet Deirdre O'Shea, the director of the Starfish Project, as well as Margaret
Eno, director of M'lop Tapang, to talk further. When I asked Mr. Thorns about Global-PAC's
activities and plans, he was extremely evasive and uninformed. Perhaps I should have
spoken with Mr. Underhill instead, since as coordinator of Global-PAC's South American
activities he feigns greater awareness of the situation in Sihanoukville than Mr.
As Mr. Thorns claimed to have a passion for children's rights and issues surrounding
that, I looked forward to receiving more information about Global-PAC's future; what
I received instead was a barrage of spam email from a Global-PAC Hotmail address
concerning New Zealand intelligence agents, Hong Kong pedophile rings, and Embassy
of Nauru information, not to mention further details that reminded me more of the
National Enquirer back home than the activities of a serious organization claiming
to be concerned with the rights of children in Cambodia. The first correspondence
I received concerning Global-PAC's actual activities in Cambodia was a series of
forwarded paranoid letters exchanged between Global-PAC and reporters for the Daily
and Post, approximately one week before the initial articles hit the news stalls
There has been no communication between Global-PAC and Starfish, M'lop Tapang, or
the SRN since that initial meeting. Starfish, MT, and the SRN are transparent organizations
with clear structures and open accounting that continue to produce verifiable results
in Sihanoukville municipality and surrounding provinces. All three organizations
were started by local residents of Sihanoukville to address problems that we identified
as peculiar to Sihanoukville that were being passed over by other NGOs or the government;
at the same time, we recognize that solving these difficult issues involves an incredible
amount of networking and mutual support with different ministries, organizations,
embassies, and individuals who share the same goals.
Leaving aside how Mr Thorns and his organization have been portrayed in the media,
I remain skeptical that Global-PAC is interested in helping children's rights or
fighting pedophilia in Sihanoukville given the information that they have given me
as their "contact" with Starfish, which is minimal, the content of their
emails, which verge on the ridiculous, their activities with the police, which appear
unscrupulous, and the content of their website, which borders on pornographic.
Global-PAC's plans for "a safe child victim interview room, guesthouse training
and posters, and helping train police" sound suspiciously like projects already
being executed by MT, the SRN, and Christian Guth's role with the Anti-Trafficking
and Child Protection Police.
These plans have nothing to do with the Starfish Project other than Starfish's role
as incubator for MT and the SRN, and our continuing relationship with the Sihanoukville
Police departments. In fact, they sound remarkably similar to the content of my discussion/
ecture with Mr Thorns in late March - I call it a lecture because he had precious
little to say, and what he did mention made clear that he had no plan whatsoever
and was desperate to hear what others were doing.
As a concerned resident of Sihanoukville, if Global-PAC can tackle the issue of child
sexual exploitation effectively, I certainly welcome their activities and hope that
they rise to the challenge. As a concerned advisor to Starfish, MT, and the SRN,
I wonder why they have not drawn upon the experience accumulated by Khmer and expatriate
residents of Sihanoukville who recognize that a Phnom Penh, or global, solution is
not necessarily applicable to our community and may do more harm than good.
Either way, I look forward to seeing concrete results from their actions here, if
or when they materialize. In the meantime, I am happy to say that Global-PAC is not
associated with the Starfish Project in any way, and until they choose to act in
a transparent, clear, and open way with verified results, they will not be associated
As a final thought, I am left wondering why the Post never attempted to contact myself
or Starfish to comment on Mr Underhill's allegations before they were published.
Will Capel - Sihanoukville