Adoption figures don't tally

Date: 2001-10-12

Written by Bill Bainbridge

A letter from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSALVY) claims that 316 cases of international adoption have been processed since the adoption moratorium was lifted in March.

However that figure is only around half the number processed by the US embassy alone. An embassy spokesman said that the consular section had processed on average 96 adoption visas per month since the moratorium was lifted.

The next largest adoptive country, France, had placed more than 170 applications with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an official at the ministry told the Post. However, he did not know how many of those had been approved by MOSALVY.

The figure of 316 came in a written response to questions provided by the Post to the director of the MOSALVY's child welfare department, Mao Sovadei on August 23. His letter, dated September 11, was received by the Post October 3.

In the letter, Sovadei apologized for not being able to answer all the questions, which had been provided in both English and Khmer, because "some of the phrases written in Khmer were difficult to understand so it is difficult to find the answers as per your request".

Sovadei, whose answers were approved by MOSALVY Minister, Ith Samheng, wrote that there was nothing ambiguous about the adoption fee structure in the adoption sub-decree.

US-based agencies quote payments of up to $9,000 to cover "Cambodian fees" but MOSALVY declined to indicate where the fees go or what they are used for.

The letter quotes an article the March 2001 sub-decree: "Adopting persons can give a voluntary donation to MOSALVY for the benefit of the orphans." According to the letter this phrase "is very easy to understand".

In response to a question on whether the September 3 raid on two Tuol Kork houses linked to the Asian Orphans' Association (AOA) - and which purported to be health clinics - could lead to another moratorium on international adoptions, Savadei wrote that the raided clinic "was not involved in the procedure of adoption".

The ten babies and two children found during the raid are with an international NGO pending the result of a custody dispute.

AOA, MOSALVY and human rights NGO Licadho attended a hearing Oct 9 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Each party applied for custody of the ten babies and two children seized during the raid.

"Licadho would like temporary guardianship of the children because of the suspicion of trafficking at AOA," said Naly Pilorge, acting Licadho director.

Adoptions are apparently continuing unabated at the AOA facility outside Phnom Penh. US adoption email lists since the raid refer to AOA as the source of their adoptive child.

A US embassy spokesman said he could not comment on any specific investigations or even whether an investigation was being conducted into the Cambodian adoption process.

The US Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) website says an "overseas orphan investigation" is undertaken when the INS suspects fraud. It warns parents that child buying is prohibited by law.

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