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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Orphans’ return sought

Met Meng Chuo is seen in an undated picture taken after her adoption in Italy. Her mother has received no updates in six months. Photo supplied
Met Meng Chuo is seen in an undated picture taken after her adoption in Italy. Her mother has received no updates in six months. Photo supplied

‘Orphans’ return sought

An impoverished mother, who allowed a non-profit to send her four children to Italy because she couldn’t afford to take care of them, is now pleading with authorities to intervene after losing contact with the kids.

Nine years ago, Kampong Cham resident Uon Nhor, 40, said she and her husband, Met Mao, 48, left their children with the Phnom Penh-based Children and Poor Community Development Organization because their standard of living was so low. Nhor said her salary from working on a rubber plantation wasn’t high enough to provide her kids with an education.

For a year, she visited them in the orphanage and occasionally brought food, she says. But in 2009, the same year Cambodia would put a freeze on international adoptions, the children were sent to Italy for adoption.

According to Nhor, the organisation’s director promised that her children would visit her once a year, and would return home permanently at the age of 18.

The four children – Met Meng Chuo, Met Narith, Met Srey Khea and Met Rithy – were 10, 5, 4 and 2 years of age, respectively, when they were sent abroad.

“I agreed to let my kids go abroad because the centre said that when the kids reach 18 years old, they will let them come back to me. The adoptive parents have no right to stop them,” Nhor said.

For the next eight years, the only news she had of her children was through the organisation’s director, Meas Yuth. In 2010, Yuth showed her photographs of Meng Chuo and Rithy in Italy. Nhor says she believed Yuth when he said her children were alright.

But six months ago, the organisation vanished. After repeatedly trying to contact Yuth, this week, the stricken mother contacted the Ratanakkiri office of rights group Licadho to ask for help locating her children.

“I am poor. I believed other people, that’s why I sent my kids to the centre so that they could learn,” Nhor said. “I miss my kids and deeply worry about them. I do not know how they are doing.”

Nhor said that she would like to travel to Phnom Penh to find the organisation, but she cannot afford the travel costs.

Social Affairs Ministry officials Em Chanmakara and Sorn Sophal said they had not heard of the case, but suggested Nhor file a complaint with the ministry.

“If children are being hidden or abused, come and meet me; I will help,” Sophal said. “I would suggest that local officials immediately investigate this case.”

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