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NGO fires director over misconduct

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
A sign in front of the NGO’s office. Fresh News

About a dozen former employees of Sovann Komar, a children’s rights NGO, held a protest on Tuesday after their director was sacked for allegedly endangering children.

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Founder and executive director of Sovann Komar Arun Sothea was sacked from the NGO in August, along with Nou Savath, its former head of security guards, and about a dozen other staffers.

Mr Sothea yesterday said he did not attend the protest because he is preparing documents for a lawsuit.

“They accused me of making mistakes, doing corruption and embezzling the organisation’s money,” he said. “So, I think it’s strange that they’ve made such accusations because I was one of the founders of the organisation.”

“We send financial reports every month,” Mr Sothea added. “So if I’m wrong, the organisation should do an audit and review these reports to find the mistake so we can resolve it together. But, they didn’t do that – they’ve stopped me from working.”

Kara Heide, who serves on the board of Golden Children Inc, parent organisation of Sovann Komar, said in a press release on Wednesday that the dismissal of the employees was made based on evidence of misconduct.

Ms Heide said the Sovann Komar is preparing a criminal complaint against some of the former employees.

In her termination letter to Mr Sothea, she stated the reason for dismissal as follows: “Financial fraud, misuse of organisational funds, corruption, breach of trust, physical abuse, perpetuating an abusive environment, compromising the safety and well-being of children by being complicit when aware of physical and sexual abuse, negligence, dereliction of duties, nepotism and coercion.”

The press release added: “Sovann Komar LLC has put in place a skilled transition team to lead and maintain operations for the continued benefit of all those in the care of the children’s village. Sovann Komar LLC and the transition team remain committed to ensuring the safety of the children of Sovann Komar.”

“All necessary steps are being taken with the children’s safety and best interests at heart,” Ms Heide said in the press release. “We are taking the misconduct very seriously.”

Mr Savath, the former head of security guards with the NGO, yesterday said the NGO breached Labour Laws by firing them without a specific reason and prior notice.

“If we made a mistake, the organisation should raise the issue and show us the evidence that we did something wrong,” Mr Savath said. “We had not done anything wrong and we were stopped from working. We can’t accept this.”

He said that they have been protesting in front of the NGO’s office in Chbar Ampov district since August 16 because no resolution has been provided, noting that according to the law, the NGO owes them their salaries and seniority indemnity payments, among others.

Chrun Theravong, director of the Labour Ministry’s department of dispute, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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