Official: Guidelines Improve Orphans’ Lives

Conditions in Cambodia’s orphanages have improved over the past year, thanks to those institutions complying to a 2002 directive from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, said Mao Sowatey, director of the ministry’s Child Welfare Department on Wednesday at the opening of a conference in Phnom Penh.

Mao Sowatey said that after touring orphanages in a number of provinces, he can report that those institutions have organized their children by age and gender into small groups of about 20 that are overseen by assigned guar­dians, as ordered by his ministry.

Nim Thauth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, said the purpose of the conference was to strengthen the child welfare system.

“The Cambodian Royal Gov­ern­­ment is facing an increase of children whose parents have died because of AIDS or poverty. They are the government’s burden. The ministry is responsible for helping those children—orphans, the disabled, prostitutes who were victims of trafficking,” he said.

Roth Dan, director of the Cam­b­odian Children Saving Organi­zation in Kompong Thom pro­vince, said that the 2002 directive had been helpful and that caring for and managing the children was made easier by having them in smaller groups. He said the circumstances for the children had improved because now guardians were able to look after them the way a parent would his offspring.

Mao Sowatey also encouraged those guardians, many of whom were present at the conference, to “have high ethics and love those children, because they need harmony.”

He also urged orphanage directors to be wary of politicians targeting their older charges, some of whom are over 18 and able to vote. “Some politicians convince the older youths to participate in politics. We have to prevent that. We don’t serve political parties. We are helping humanity,” he said.

Mao Sowatey went on to tell the guardians and directors present that they must make sure the homeless children’s files are kept private and secure. “When they are mature, they will want to know their identities, so they will come to ask,” he said.

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