Child Safety in the spotlight

Observant followers of child welfare projects in Cambodia will have noted this week two orphanages hitting the news. One, a Phnom Penh orphanage has been closed for alleged breaches of child safety.  In another orphanage in Siem Reap a local manager has been detained for alleged sexual abuse.

The timing of these moves is interesting, because in recent weeks the Ministry has been extremely active in checking paperwork and helping NGOs implement clear standard procedures. For example if a child visits their parents for a few days, their exit and re-arrival needs to be recorded. Such things were previously more laissez-faire.

The main objective by the Government is to license all NGOs and to hold these organisations (ours included) to account. Good work.

For those who have not seen our Child Safety policy – this was developed in consultation with volunteers world-wide, several of whom work in child-care professions.

One aspect of the recent news reports is worrisome. In Cambodia it is very easy for any individual to make an allegation and for this to be followed by arrests though, not necessarily, true justice.

And already (two days after the initial reports) the Phnom Penh story appears murky with Cambodia Daily publishing a report quoting police refuting the events reported elsewhere (they say the orphanage founder merely sought assistance) while anti-trafficking organisation SISHA maintains its allegations that children were treated badly and with physical violence.  (Here’s an interview with them from the AC Radio in Australia.)

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The Cambodian government is flexing its muscles to introduce controls for orphanages and other NGOs.

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