An international Christian non-governmental organization, Agape International Missions, was recently ordered to cease operations in Cambodia by Prime Minister Hun Sen after a controversial CNN headline accused Cambodian mothers of selling their children into prostitution.
“My country is poor, but you cannot insult our people,” Hun Sen said, as reported by Time. “You bombarded our country, and now you make more trouble. It is fitting that CNN was blasted by President Donald Trump. I would like to say that President Trump is right: U.S. media is very tricky.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his camp took offense at the CNN report’s original headline on July 24 which read, “Life after trafficking: The Cambodian girls sold for sex by their mothers.” The verbiage was indeed misleading, as the story’s subjects were ethnically Vietnamese—not Cambodian—children. After the backlash, CNN removed the word “Cambodian” from the headline to more accurately reflect the story.
Despite the correction, the Cambodian prime minister insinuated Agape International Missions (AIM) misportrays the state of affairs in Cambodia for their own personal benefit and to the detriment of the country.
“A foreign NGO that uses Cambodia to seek donations and look down on Cambodia very badly is not only unacceptable but also unforgivable,” he said via The Cambodia Daily. “Whatever the cost, this organization must leave Cambodia and is no longer allowed to stay.”
What was supposed to be a short follow-up to CNN’s 2013 documentary on the sex trade in Cambodia based on AIM’s story and work has turned into a leave order for the Christian NGO.
Perhaps it’s no use telling the prime minister that AIM, or even the CNN reporters, probably had little to no say on the headline of the story. Often headlines are chosen by the editors and pinned to the articles without the authors’ or subjects’ consent. Hun Sen’s overblown reaction suggests he is simply using the mistake to distract from the actual problem: sex trafficking in Cambodia.
Recently Cambodia was listed as a Tier 2 Country on the State Department’s annual report, “Trafficking in Persons Report 2017,” which means the Southeast Asian country is not meeting the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards but that officials “are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”
AIM began as a humanitarian aid and church planting organization in 1988 then developed into a ministry combatting the sex trafficking industry in 2005 once the plight of young members of Cambodia’s population became clear. According to their website, AIM ministers to 10,000 people every year.Google+