Women in rush to produce babies for sale

South China Morning Post
Friday, July 16, 1999

VIETNAM
HUW WATKIN in Hanoi

Authorities in the northern province of Bac Can have uncovered a child-trafficking operation which is alleged to have sold 77 children to foreigners in the past 18 months.

The case follows the discovery of two other rings - one in the northern province of Ninh Binh and another in An Giang in the south - involving the illegal procurement of nearly 550 children since 1996. Men claiming to be from the Bac Can Justice Department are visiting remote communes offering to broker the sale of children and help parents fulfil the necessary procedures to send them abroad, a report in the official Young People newspaper claims.

At first the adopted children were mostly abandoned or born to desperately poor families.

"But now there is an increasing number of parents who sell their babies to foreigners," the report said. "In several communes women are rushing to produce babies with the hope of selling them to foreigners."

Adoption of Vietnamese children by foreigners has boomed in recent years, creating a multimillion-dollar market and encouraging corrupt officials to bypass regulations designed to ensure the welfare of children.

Vietnamese police arrested two more people early this month in connection with a racket involving Health and Justice Department officials in Ninh Binh which has seen 350 children sold to foreigners over a three-year period for prices up to US$5,000 (HK$38,750).

The number of arrests in Ninh Binh now totals 20, but the trial of 11 people accused of selling 199 children to foreigners in An Giang was halted without explanation in May.

Most large child-welfare agencies avoid direct involvement in adoptions with one representative describing the issue as "extremely murky". Networks reportedly charge foreigners large sums to ensure the quick processing of applications, raising concerns over the potential for abuse of the system, kick-backs and other irregularities.

Couples from the United States, Sweden and France have long come to Vietnam seeking to adopt, and a third of all foreign adoptions to France last year - 1,328 infants - were Vietnamese.

The French Government suspended adoptions of Vietnamese children in May pending the introduction of watertight vetting procedures.

French embassy officials were unavailable for comment yesterday but the suspension will reportedly be lifted in September when a formal adoption accord is to be signed between French and Vietnamese officials in Paris.

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