Some Thursday ASEAN links:
Officials in Phnom Penh have refused to extradite an American national on rape charges in the U.S., alleging that he abused underage girls at an orphanage he established in Cambodia. Local authorities will charge Stephen Johnson, 35, with at least three counts of sexual assault.
“We have found [via confession] that this American man was involved in sexually abusing children, and raped three underage Cambodian girls in Cambodia,” Major General Pol Pithey, chief of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Protection Department, told The Phnom Penh Post. “According to Cambodian laws, this American man now will not be sent to the United States as planned – He must face his charges, must be convicted by a Cambodian court and serve his sentences in Cambodia first.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Pithey also claims that the orphanage that Johnson founded, Hope Transitions, lacked proper authorization from the government. He said that Johnson’s alleged victims, who still live at the orphanage, were girls between 13 and 15 years old.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, Johnson was on the run from Federal Bureau of Investigation officials in connection with five cases of child rape in the U.S. The American embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment.
Over in the Philippines, the Red Cross expressed concern that aid dependency could become an issue if long-term recovery isn’t emphasized.
“There are still needs and gaps in delivery of food and emergency shelter materials to some areas, but we must look towards gradually reducing people’s dependency on food aid,” said Bekele Geleta, the secretary general of the Red Cross, in an interview with The Inquirer.
Geleta stressed the need for cash for work programs that could empower disaster victims to provide for themselves. He said that 50,000 of the hardest-hit families would receive grants for rebuilding their homes and businesses.
“Thousands have lost their income and this approach gives them dignity and allows them to set their own priorities,” he added.
Rice farmers in Thailand have threatened to block roads in 26 provinces, claiming that the government has not paid them since October. They claim that money owed for the 2013-2014 main crop is hindering their ability to plant new crops.
Prasit Boonchoey, the leader of the Thai Rice Farmers Association, said that the Commerce Ministry “needs to do more than merely complain [that] the government is short of funds.”
He added that the cabinet minister promised rice famers that the government could afford to pay for the rice.