News / Asia

UNICEF Concern Prompts Cambodian Investigation of Orphanages

Cambodian orphans play together as they wait for adoption at Kien Klaing orphanage center in Phnom Penh, (File)
Cambodian orphans play together as they wait for adoption at Kien Klaing orphanage center in Phnom Penh, (File)
Robert Carmichael

The Cambodian government has begun investigating the country’s orphanages; just days after the United Nations Children's Fund expressed its concerns that nearly three out of four children in the country's orphanages have at least one living parent.  

Earlier this week, UNICEF said most of the 12,000 children in Cambodia’s orphanages are, in fact, not orphans.   Nearly three-quarters of them have one living parent, yet the number of children in care has more than doubled in five years.

UNICEF said the number of orphanage centers has nearly doubled, to 269 facilities in the same period.

Just 21 of those are run by the government.  The rest are funded and run by foreign donors and faith-based organizations.

Tourism

UNICEF country head, Richard Bridle, told VOA he is concerned many centers have turned to tourism to attract funding and that, by doing so, they put children at risk.

Bridle says even the best-intentioned tourists and volunteers are funding a system that is helping to separate children from their families.

International studies have shown that children are better off in a family or community setting.
That also happens to be a much cheaper way of caring for them, says Sebastien Marot, the founder of Phnom Penh’s respected street kids organization called Friends International, which was established 17 years ago.

Money-making venture


Marot says the figures from UNICEF indicate a serious problem:  Either there is a misconception about stability in Cambodia in the 21st century, or "unscrupulous people" are engaging in a charity business and using children to make money.

"We have been working 17 years and we haven’t placed kids in an orphanage.  And, we are working with the most marginalized kids that have the most difficult families.  We haven’t placed any in an orphanage in eight years, except for heavily disabled or very, very sick, because the families are really in no capacity for taking care of them.  And, that is the real situation," Marot said.

Marot acknowledges that most tourists going to orphanages are acting out of pure motives when they visit the children and give money.

But he says there is little doubt that some Cambodian orphanages have been set up to make money from foreign tourists.

Visitors to Cambodia’s tourist centers of Phnom Penh, the temple city, Siem Reap and the beach resort, Sihanoukville, are regularly bombarded with pleas to visit orphanages.

Marot’s advice is that tourists should behave as they would at home.

"The real question is:  Would you do this in your own country?  No.  Have you ever visited an orphanage in your own country?  No.  Why?  Because an orphanage is a safe place for kids and has to have a child protection system - it is to protect those children," Marot noted. “They are already totally vulnerable.  Having people coming from outside is just not acceptable."

A spokesman for the Social Affairs Ministry, which is carrying out the inspections, admitted this week that the government does not know whether the thousands of children in care are being treated well or badly.

The spokesman says it is unclear how long it will take to inspect all 269 orphanages, but promises that those found to be sub-standard or in contravention of the law will be closed.   


You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs