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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    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.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora