The Our Home center in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district has reopened under interim management after its director, Hang Vibol, was jailed last month and charged with abusing boys at the organization’s orphanage, which housed more than 50 children but was shuttered and will remain closed.
Svay Rieng-based NGO Rural Aid Organization (RAO) reopened Our Home’s educational programs last month and will provisionally take over operations pending the Phnom Penh Municipal Court verdict into Mr. Vibol, who arranged the transition prior to his arrest on March 3, said RAO’s Phnom Penh program manager, Kuch Ly.
“RAO has a contract for one year. If Mr. Vibol is still in jail, we will think of what to do next,” said Mr. Ly, who added he was a personal friend of Mr. Vibol, who had asked for help when he became aware that an investigation by the anti-human trafficking police would result in jail time and a trial.
“He is my friend and he asked if I could help and bring my organization, which has experience with vulnerable children and community outreach,” he said. “Our Home has ceased its activity, but it now continues its job until we know the outcome.”
Mr. Vibol—a former director of anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE)—founded Our Home in 1999 in partnership with Global Humanitaria, but the Spanish organization pulled out in 2013.
In June, the Ministry of Social Affairs asked APLE to open an investigation into its former chief after receiving two anonymous complaints claiming inappropriate behavior was rife among teenagers living at Our Home.
The anti-pedophile group says it subsequently uncovered multiple claims of sex abuse by Mr. Vibol, but before he was incarcerated, the Our Home director claimed APLE founder Thierry Darnaudet fabricated the investigation as revenge for a complaint Mr. Vibol filed with the government accusing him of similar child sex offenses.
Mr. Darnaudet has denied having any involvement in the investigation, and the government dismissed the complaint from Mr. Vibol in 2013.
Less than a month since taking over Our Home, Mr. Ly said RAO has slashed the center’s bloated staff to just 13, adding that RAO was helping provide training, teachers and volunteers to the center, but could not contribute funds.
For the time being, the center will cover most of its costs with $250 per month fees supplied by foreign volunteers—who will soon number five or six, he said.
Oum Sophannara, director of child welfare at the Ministry of Social Affairs, which instigated the investigation into Mr. Vibol and closed the orphanage, said he was unaware that the NGO had reopened under new management.
“I have not heard anything,” he said. “But unless the orphanage had also reopened and children were living there again, it is not the concern of the Ministry of Social Affairs.”