Fake Orphanage Ordered Closed After Alleged Migrant Scam

The Ministry of Interior has suspended the operation of an orphanage after it found that its director had colluded with a recruitment agency to cheat migrant workers out of an alleged $600,000, officials said Tuesday.

“The Ministry of Interior temporarily suspends all activities of Our Friends Orphanage,” located in Takeo province’s Prey Kabbas district, as well as its six branches in Sihanoukville, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampot, and Kompong Cham provinces and Phnom Penh, the ministry wrote in a letter signed by Secretary of State Pol Lim on January 17.

“All branches of Our Friends Orphanage were shut down,” Chhan Chansopheak, deputy director of the political department of the Ministry of Interior, said Tuesday.

No children had been living at the orphanages, he said.

The ministry had summoned Thoeun Samnang, the orphanage’s director, for questioning, but Mr. Samnang had escaped and is now at large, according to Mr. Chansopheak. Phone calls to the orphanages went unanswered Tuesday.

Mr. Samnang, together with the recruitment agency You Can Win, had promised to help hundreds of people migrate to work in South Korea if they completed a language course first, Mr. Chansopheak said.

In December, workers began to complain to the Ministry of Labor, saying that although they had paid between $100 and $150 for Korean language classes, You Can Win failed to provide the promised jobs in Korea, he added.

You Can Win’s marketing manager Kim Sophat and director-general Uon Sarath were subsequently arrested, but blamed Mr. Samnang for the deception, saying that they had also been cheated and that Mr. Samnang had disappeared with an alleged $600,000, according to Mr. Chansopheak.

“The Ministry of Interior has received a complaint from Ms. Nom Sok Hun, the lawyer representing civil plaintiffs Kim Sophat and Uon Sarath, who claim that the founder of Our Friends Orphanage has collected money from hundreds of workers in exchange to send them to work abroad illegally,” the letter from the ministry reads.

Mr. Sophat and Mr. Sarath are currently in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison.

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