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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Assembly passes bill on foreign adoptions

Assembly passes bill on foreign adoptions

Enforcement vital in fulfilling regulation’s aims of ending child trafficking, rights groups warn.

Nongovernmental groups have hailed a new law regulating the adoption of Cambodian children by foreign parents but warn that enforcement is vital if the law is to succeed in its aim of preventing the exploitation and trafficking of children.

The law was passed by the National Assembly with bipartisan support on Friday, in response to long-standing fears that a legal void was allowing the sale of Cambodian children overseas.

WE ENCOURAGE KHMERS WHO HAVE THE ABILITY TO TAKE OUR KHMER CHILDREN ...

Kek Pung, president of local rights organisation Licadho, said she strongly supported the adoption law as a measure against child trafficking but called on the relevant authorities to ensure the new law fulfills its aims.
“The adoption issue is very important because we do not want to see our Khmer children trafficked,” she said. “When this law is issued, we must enforce it all together for the higher interests of our children.”

In addition to the passage of the new law, she said, the government should also be encouraging a greater number of Cambodian families to adopt poor children from within the country.

“This is our wish because we want to see our Khmer children remain in our country as our national resource,” she said.

Chan Soveth, a program officer at the rights group Adhoc, seconded the call for tight enforcement, saying that with it, children could be in danger.
“Sometimes adoptions can be dangerous for children when the law has not been respected properly,” he said.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia have all banned their citizens from adopting from Cambodia since 2001, due to fears arising from the lack of a regulatory framework.

On paper, the new law will ensure that prospective parents undergo a rigorous screening before any adoption gets approval. Article 21 of the law states that adopting parents will be eligible, provided that they have never been convicted of a crime and have displayed “good character and behaviour”.

It also states that adoptions are restricted to couples aged between 30 and 45 years at the time they lodge their application.

According to Article 45, adopters also have to provide a report to the authorities every six months until the child is 3 years old, and then at yearly intervals until the child reaches 18.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said he was happy to hear that NGOs support the new law, adding also that the government will soon move to pass another law regulating domestic adoptions.

“We encourage Khmers who have the ability to take our Khmer children, since they can have more compassion than foreigners,” he said.

“We will make efforts to talk with the competent agencies, and we strongly encourage the Khmer nation to adopt from our Khmer.”

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