The arrival of a “virtual” organization, campaigning against sex tourism and carrying in its entourage a controversial entrepreneur, is turning heads among some skeptics in Cambodia’s NGO community.
Global-Protect All Children claims to have expertise in the surveillance of foreign sex tourists, but human rights watchdog Licadho said Tuesday that the NGO, and its founders, have aroused a degree of interest.
The group advertises in a Sihanoukville visitors’ guide and says it has child advocacy groups all over the world, “yet none of the NGOs I’ve talked to in Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville have ever heard of them,” Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said Tuesday.
The NGO arrived in Cambodia last week with Jack Sanders, the center of controversy last year at the Beijing embassy of the small Pacific nation of Nauru.
Last year The New Zealand Herald newspaper linked Sanders to the smuggling of North Korean defectors to the West and allegations of selling passports from the Nauru Embassy.
Controversy surrounding those reports led to the Nauru Embassy’s closure, the Herald reported, but Sanders appears to have stayed busy with new enterprises, including a training course on WTO membership.
Gerald Thorns, executive director of Global-PAC, said Tuesday that he and Sanders were attending an economic conference in Bangkok as representatives of their other Beijing-based company, WTO Training Info. There they met Thong Lim, the deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s Central Justice Police Department who was at a separate conference on international crime.
“They have plans to help children in Cambodia. Especially they want to fund a place in Sihanoukville and try to feed the children, provide vocational training,” Thong Lim said.
Sanders was scheduled to depart Phnom Penh over the weekend, but Thorns was on hand Sunday and he explained that their NGO had donated some $5,700 in surveillance equipment to the Interior Ministry, including high-tech infrared cameras and audio devices.
But the Interior Ministry’s Anti-trafficking Department Chief Un Sokunthea, which received the gifts Saturday, said Tuesday the group gave only a few hundred dollars worth of recording equipment and, later, two air conditioners.
According to Thorns, Global-PAC funding comes from churches, governments, companies and donations through its Web site, www.global-pac.org.
On that site, alongside graphic photos of half-naked girls, Global-PAC claims to be “taking an adult, hard-hitting, eye-opening, nonpartisan, nonpolitical, secular common sense approach to stopping human trafficking.”
The NGO has no full-time staff or central office, Thorns said, allowing it to operate without overhead costs. He dismissed concerns over the NGO’s legitimacy, and that Sanders’ colorful past might adversely affect the group’s reputation. He added that the NGO had not yet registered in Cambodia and was still looking for an office, though it has advertised in the area for months.