Comedy Troupe Takes Aim at ‘Passive’ NGOs

A comedy troupe that performed at last week’s controversial Clean Hands anticorruption concert staged two television programs on Saturday, criticizing NGOs that accuse the government of corruption.

In two comedy sets, filmed at CTN studios and also aired on TV5 and Bayon TV, the Koy comedy group satirized NGOs, which it called “red hands,” “blue hands,” and “silver hands.” An actor portraying an NGO worker explained to the group that they could attract more donor money if they criticized the government.

Comedian Chuong Chy said Sunday that the programs were meant to educate Cambodians about what he called “passive” NGOs—those that criticize the government, rather than helping it.

“Some NGOs accuse the government of being corrupt without thinking about its accomplishments,” he said. “You can say that the government is corrupt if nothing had developed in our country, but the government is working hard and everything is developing.”

Mr Chy’s Koy troupe also performed at the Clean Hands concert on May 30, when US Ambassador Carol Rodley made a speech claiming that the Cambodia loses $500 million in public money each year to corruption. Her words prompted a severe government response, including a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reminding the entire diplomatic corps to stay out of Cambodia’s internal affairs, as well as calls for her to retract her statement.

Mr Chy denied that his group was under any pressure to produce the television programs in the wake of the controversy. “It was the idea of our group,” he said.

However, he added that, “I live under my government’s roof, so I have to believe in and promote my government.”

Mr Chy pointed to the wealth of some Cambodians as proof that the country is developing in a positive direction. “Now we have everything. Some families have two SUVs, some have three.”

Naly Pilorge, director of local human rights NGO Licadho, said Sunday that she was concerned about the content of the programs.

“The remarks made by the comedians were vulgar and false. NGOs like Licadho are here to work for Cambodians…. We’re not here to enrich ourselves,” Ms Pilorge said.

The Clean Hands concert was organized by the NGO Pact Cam­bodia. Country representative Paul Mason could not be reached for comment Sunday, and Nuth Youthy, senior research officer for Pact’s mainstreaming anticorruption for equity program, declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)


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