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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Past Post: Big bribes key to US baby-buying

Past Post: Big bribes key to US baby-buying

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Vol. 9, No. 17

August 18 - 31, 2000

AMERICAN agencies facilitating adoptions from Cambodia must pay thousands of dollars to Government officials to expedite the approval of their clients' paperwork.

A source with intimate knowledge of the foreign adoption business told the Post money is passed to Government officials by employees of the American agencies responsible for moving the paperwork through the system.

The source said the amounts of money paid depends on whether the Government perceives a problem with the adoptive parents' application. On average a minimum of US$3,000 is pocketed by officials who must sign approval documents, but several thousand dollars more might be demanded if officials are concerned about the applicants' suitability to adopt.

He said American facilitators in Cambodia are fully aware of the need to pay bribes. When clients of the American agencies agree to accept a child available for adoption they must immediately wire $5,500 to Cambodia.

The source said adoption centers, including the Woman and Orphan Vocational Association (WOVA) used as a source of babies by American agencies, have a network of village, commune and district chiefs across Cambodia who encourage poor mothers to hand their babies to the centers. These chiefs are paid between $10 to $15 each to sign papers stating the babies were abandoned.

According to the US Embassy, 240 visas were issued for adopted Cambodian babies to go to the United States in 1999.

He said brokers buying babies for the adoption centers are also active throughout Cambodia, but they are not the major source of children.

Chhim Naly, director of WOVA denied allegations that WOVA was involved in any baby buying.

Nim Thoth, secretary of state, refused requests to comment on adoption bribery, but said in a written statement that the Ministry of Social Affairs could not say when the suspension of adoptions imposed earlier in the year would be lifted.

While Nim Thoth did not comment about the nature of the reforms to be included in the subdecree on foreign adoptions, a source at MoSA told the Post he expects only minor changes to the adoption law. One of the most significant changes under consideration being the elimination of foreign adoption agency involvement in the paperwork process.

The source said there are officially no adoption fees charged by the Government and he did not know why American agencies charged their clients - though he did acknowledge it could go towards bribes to expedite approval. 

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