Rival Orphanage Programs Get Shut Down

The Phnom Penh social affairs department has shut down accommodation programs at two orphanages in Meanchey district due to substandard conditions, an inspector said Wednesday.

You Sopheak, an inspector at the department of social affairs, said 12 children were removed from the care of the two orphanages, Sokhasa Orphanage and House for Children in Cambodia, in Boeng Tompun commune on Monday following a complaint that children were not being properly fed.

“We closed the accommodation programs, but did not close their organizations after we got a complaint,” said Mr. Sopheak.

Mr. Sopheak said that despite the seriousness of the complaint, the allegations might have stemmed from a rivalry between the two orphanages.

“The two organizations have an argument with each other and an ex-employee from one organization [Sokhasa] opened another new organization [House for Children],” he explained.

The proprietor of House for Children then filed the complaint against her former employer, Sokhasa Orphanage, Mr. Sopheak said.

Social affairs inspectors were sent to both orphanages, and although the original complaint of malnutrition appeared to be unfounded, inspectors found flaws at both.

“We closed the programs because the organizations did not take care of the children,” he said. “The organizations must have a good atmosphere, but their houses are apartments and do not have a good air.”

Mr. Sopheak said the children, aged 8 to 18, eight of them from Sokhasa and four from House for Children, were sent to another NGO, M’lup Russey, which focuses on reintegrating poor children back into their homes.

Khen Pheakdey, a project manager at M’lup Russey, said four of the 12 children were not orphans at all and had already been sent home to their parents.

“We have sent some to their family members,” she said. “There are eight left.”

Meng Bopha, the owner of Sokhasa, said the accusations were trumped up by her ex-employee to tarnish her orphanage’s reputation.

“It is an internal argument. She wanted to irritate my orphanage,” Ms. Bopha said of her rival.

“She knows everything about the donation sources in my organization and she attracted some kids from my organization to her new organization.”

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