Sabour urges Australians to stop visiting Cambodian orphanages
Visiting orphanages in Cambodia is exploiting children and Sabour Bradley wants you to stop.
If you’re visiting orphanages in Cambodia, sending money or even volunteering -you should stop.
You are being played, and the money you are giving is not reaching the kids.
According to Bradley, whose episode of Head First airs tomorrow night on ABC, most of the kids are not even orphans.
“There’s essentially a major crime being committed against children under the guise of ‘Orphanage Tourism.’ And it’s being helped unknowingly and unwittingly by Australians,” he told TV Tonight.
“75% of children in Cambodian orphanages actually have parents.”
Bradley travels to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, home to the Angkor Wat temples, where he goes undercover to a thriving practice of tourists visiting orphanages with apparent good will.
He says some orphanages are taking advantage of the country’s destitute with criminal elements exploiting a steady stream of cash.
“After getting over genocide they realised Western tourists, especially Australians, actually wanted to see orphans, to donate, volunteer and send money –whether they knew what was happening to the orphans or not,” he explains.
“So very quickly they realised ‘This is a business.’ But they need orphans and there aren’t enough.
“So they go to the rural areas to pay or rent or, with the promise of a better life, take the child or are given the child.
“Then they populate places purporting to be orphanages with kids who aren’t orphans. The foreigners keep coming, and they’re coming in greater numbers. So it’s tourists who drive the trade. That’s the thing!
“They pay to volunteer. They think what they are doing is good-hearted but all that money is going to orphanage directors, with criminals behind them. None of it going to the children.
“Children are being abused, exploited in every possible way. It’s basically child exploitation on a mass scale across Cambodia and now reaching out through South-East Asia.
“At one place, five minutes after we arrived a tour bus pulled up with 30 people who were all Australian. So they’re all part of a massive scam, allowed in without any ID Checks, watch the kids dance and give them money.”
Bradley finds four Australians who were taken to an orphanage as part of a travel itinerary, and reveals to them the truth about what is taking place across the country.
“The only thing that stops it is people knowing about it,” he says.
“Australians think they’re doing good and they’ve been told they’re doing good.”
Tourists are not the only people fuelling the practice, with volunteers -who all pay for the privilege- also unwittingly part of the schemes. International companies serve as middle-men, shuffling young volunteers into orphanages.
“They’re called ‘Volun-tourists’ and there’s so many of them coming across. But the middlemen set them up with orphanages who often don’t need them,” Bradley continues.
“As with anyone who has contact with kids, comes (the risk of) sex tourism. So they’re going across there, paying money, to have contact with kids.”
In the documentary, Bradley meets Steve Morrish, an ex-detective from Melbourne , who has formed SISHA, an organisation designed to hunt down people or groups who try to exploit children.
With so little regulation in Cambodia, SISHA works with locals and police to investigate orphanage corruption. As a reporter, Sabour Bradley goes undercover in one of SISHA’s stings.
“He enlisted me into the investigation unit and as a westerner I went undercover more easily than he could because he is known. There was a case of missing children who were part of an orphanage that had been shut down by SISHA a year ago.
“The same orphanage director who had been wanted by the police, had now gone back to the same families in rural areas and taken the kids back. So he was somewhere in the city getting money from donors from around the world.
“I went undercover in this operation but it turned into this huge thing because at a certain point I had to meet up with him.
“We had surveillance but Steve said ‘Do not go anywhere with him alone.’”
But as surveillance cameras film him following the trail deeper and deeper, everything begins to unravel.
“This is the show I want to get the biggest audience for. It’s the one that needs to be seen by everybody in Australia,” Bradley insists.
“It’s an Orphan Business and Children are the commodities.”
Head First airs 8:30pm Wednesday on ABC.