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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child snatchers part of world net

Child snatchers part of world net

SINO-KHMER Mafia are smuggling Cambodian children to the West to supply a black-market

in internal organs, a local police chief has revealed.

"We have lost a lot of children from our country," said Police General

Skadavy M Ly Roun of Cambodian Interpol. "In Cambodia, it is easy for criminal

organizations to find children to send to Belgium, Italy, Germany, and the United

States where their organs will be removed."

The illicit export of Cambodian children for the surgical removal of their internal

organs has allegedly occurred since early 1995.

"To remove organs, you need to find a doctor who is specialized in surgery,

because it is not a question of simply removing spare parts from a car," he

added. "We know - and don't just suspect - that these criminals have found doctors

somewhere in the West who carry out such operations."

The information was allegedly conveyed to Cambodian Interpol by police informants

and undercover agents.

At press time, Skadavy's allegations about the supply of local children to the international

organ trade could not be confirmed elsewhere.

It is all part of a "major" child-trading racket run by up to "100

Chinese-Cambodian criminal syndicates", the police general maintained, that

have "extensive contacts with Chinese triads" around the globe.

These syndicates are also exploiting Western demands to supply Asian children to

the child-sex, clandestine labor, and mail-order adoption trades, he said.

According to police sources who are investigating suspected cases of child-trading,

over the past two years an undetermined number of children - of Cambodian and other

Asian origins - were smuggled out of or through Cambodia.

The underage contraband was shipped to other parts of Asia - where the child-trade

is reportedly booming - and to the West where the trade in Asian children is gaining

ground.

"We cannot say exactly how many children have been taken out of the country,"

Skadavy said. "The trouble is that when these children go missing from their

home villages or home towns, their parents do not normally notify the police."

By the conservative estimate of a foreign police officer who is stationed in Phnom

Penh as an advisor to Cambodian police, the number of children that disappear from

Cambodia is in the order of "several hundred per year."

Over the past year alone, his agency has tracked two cases in which "at least

60 children" were smuggled to Europe from Cambodia.

It is impossible to pinpoint how many children are smuggled to the West on fraudulent

passports or visas, the enforcer conceded.

But, he added, taken together, the two cases - as well as the Nov 30 arrest in Rome

of Cao Leng Huot, the Cambodian man suspected of running Asian children into Europe

for the continental sex-trade - indicate that the scale of the child-trade is global

and well-advanced.

In his opinion, the procurement of children for international paedophilia and prostitution

is the most lucrative of the child-trades, because it carries the greatest risks

to both suppliers and consumers.

Child traders will go to any length to make a profit, however, depending on what

the trends in the black-market are, the official said.

Cambodian and other Asian children have also ended-up in sweatshops lost amid Europe's

immigrant enclaves, he noted.

On Dec 3, it was reported by Reuters that a suburban Paris garment factory, where

illegal immigrants from Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand worked, was raided by French

police.

And although, strictly speaking, the practice of arranging adoptions by long-distance

is not illegal, the fact that "parents" are willing to pay as much as $10,000

to bypass formalities - without setting eyes on their prospective adopted "child"

- should not be discounted as possible child-smuggling, the enforcer added.

Cambodian Interpol's Skadavy was reluctant to disclose details about the organ racket,

citing a fear that his agency's investigation would be jeopardized.

He did, however, elaborate on the Chinese-Cambodian syndicates who he believes are

behind child-smuggling and its various manifestations.

These Mafia are drawn largely from the Cambodian emigre community in France, where

they have been engaged since the mid-1970s in a number of rackets including drug-running,

gambling, and prostitution, Skadavy explained.

Since Untac, these syndicates have set-up clandestine immigration operations in Cambodia,

according to the national Interpol chief.

They provide illegal aliens from mainland China, for example, with falsified or counterfeit

papers to facilitate their entry into the West.

Skadavy is convinced the Mafia is making a killing from this.

They obtain legitimate passports, driving permits, or social security booklets at

a cost of $4,000 from contacts who circulate among Cambodian expatriate communities

in the West. The documents are then doctored and flogged on this end for as high

as $10,000 per illegal migrant.

The syndicates are now allegedly capitalizing on the rush of Cantonese who are fleeing

from Hong Kong, as the date of the territory's transfer to the People's Republic

of China approaches.

"Because of the hand-over of Hong Kong, Chinese families will try to enter the

West via Cambodia," Skadavy said. "These Chinese-Cambodian syndicates will

organize for them to travel, first to Cambodia, and then to the West."

Based on what Interpol informants have told Skadavy, there are considerable numbers

of mainland or Hong Kong Chinese passing into Cambodia.

Skadavy said he had met recently in Phnom Penh with two informants who claimed they

had been runners in a global child-trading and clandestine immigration operation.

"These informants have made many similar trips in the past few months as escorts,"

he said.

The escorts will spend an average of two weeks cloistered at safehouses in and around

Phnom Penh, where they will acquaint themselves with their charges.

The idea is for these "families" to appear as inconspicuous as possible,

sources said.

According to Skadavy, couriers are paid $1,500 for each run to France and $3,000

for each run to the United States.

- additional reporting by Tricia Fitzgerald

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