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NGO sorry over CNN sex trafficking report

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times Share:
AIM co-founder Don Brewster speaks at his office yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Agape International Mission yesterday formally apologised to Cambodian women and the government over its involvement in a CNN video documentary on human trafficking.

The apology was made after the Ministry of Interior concluded its investigation into AIM, which provided information to ABC and CNN that some young Cambodian girls were sexually exploited by their mothers, and sent a report to Prime Minister Hun Sen for approval. 

At the AIM office in Svay Pak commune yesterday, co-founder Don Brewster said that over the past 13 years, he and his family have fought against sex trafficking in Cambodia and provided humanitarian aid.

“For this reason, I would like to express my deep sorrow for any harm inflicted on Cambodia and its people as a result of the CNN broadcast,” Mr Brewster said. “For this, I offer my heartfelt apology.”

“I have also written His Excellency Prime Minister Hun Sen a letter of apology,” he added.

The recent CNN documentary re-interviewed girls from a previous project by the station, showing their current situation compared to their past one.

But the broadcast included back footage and dated information that the government said was misleading because sex trafficking does not occur in Svay Pak commune anymore.

Mr Hun Sen immediately ordered an investigation into AIM and ordered it shuttered, maintaining the information provided that Cambodian mothers had sold their daughters for sex was false.

The Prime Minister has allowed the NGO to continue its work but stressed that providing such information to the news broadcasters was a serious insult to Cambodian women, and yesterday afternoon asked the NGO to hold a press conference to clarify the issue.

“Unfortunately, CNN identified the three girls as Cambodian when in fact they are ethnically Vietnamese,” Mr Brewster said yesterday of the girls interviewed in the broadcast. “I wrote Alexandra Field of CNN to point out this error, and they did correct it on their website.”

AIM is awaiting a decision on its status in the country as a result of the investigation. According to Mr Brewster, AIM’s programmes provided benefits to 4,772 Cambodians this year.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.

Huy Vannak, president of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia, said the decision to ask AIM to clarify the issue came after yesterday’s meeting.

“We think that AIM has not issued a sincere apology to Cambodian mothers, girls and the people,” he said.

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