“Children are not tourist attraction” – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 11/2011

November 16th, 2011

When poverty becomes a business.

« Children are not a tourist attraction » is a shock campaign started by NGO Friends International.

« The children are absolutely adorable and love to have visitors come to play with them. The moment you arrive at the gates, you’ll be greeted with open arms and screams of joy ». This invitation has been read on the home page of a Cambodian orphanage website. The drift is blindingly obvious : children promoted as a tourist attraction. A traveller wrote in 2009 on a touristic guide website once back home : « A tuk tuk driver i’m friendly with there told me about a little known orphanage about 6-7 km outside town [Phnom Penh] ( its actually on the way to the killing fields so maybe you could go to both in the same day  to save time) […] It was a real eye opener how poor they are and for the price of a few beers you can really make a difference to their lives ». Make a difference for these children « for the price of a few beers » is a pathetic illusion.

« Think ! » sends out Friends International to the tourists. Two figures should help them to do so :

–       72% of the children living in orphanges still have parents.

–       A 65% increase in the number of orphanages since 2005 despite a decrease in the number of vulnerable children and orphans.

And there is the evidence : let’s picture a group of Chinese that, after enjoying the Big Ben, would pay a visit to an orphanage in London. Unacceptable !  would yell the British, outraged. So, why would it be acceptable in Cambodia ?

 

Photo : in front of the National Museum, one of the prime tourist spot in Phnom Penh, the back of a tuk tuk is used to get the message out. Cambodia, 2011.

 

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