BLACK-market babies are readily available at the Cambodian Red Cross Health
Center and other Phnom Penh hospitals, according to Khmer facilitators brokering
adoptions for foreigners.
"To get a baby from orphanage centers is more
costly than from the Red Cross Health Center or the Municipal Hospital," said a
facilitator who refused to be named.
He said his clients prefer babies
from the hospitals because it had become difficult to find HIV-free babies at
Though getting a baby from the hospitals is less
expensive, it is not free.
"We had to give money to those who looked
after the babies. Some people on the maternity staff gave away babies in
exchange for a little money. Others wanted to sell babies to us, but we did not
He said one client gave a new mother, who had just delivered at the
Red Cross Health Center, a $350 "donation" for her baby.
Red Cross is headed by Bun Rany, wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
1997 the facilitator has been assisting foreigners with "independent" adoptions
- a less expensive alternative to the American agencies which typically charge
clients $11,500 to adopt from Cambodia
The facilitator said once a baby
was found, the clients had to bribe Red Cross staff to obtain the infant's birth
"To take a baby from the hospital we had to get its birth
certificate and pay about $200 to the Red Cross Health Center's maternity
The Director of the department, Chhun Heng, told
the Post she knew little about foreigners wanting to adopt babies from the
hospital, and she denied ever demanding fees for birth certificates.
have learned that sometimes mothers abandoned their babies at the entrance door
of the hospital, but I am not sure of this information," she said.
the interview with Heng, it took the Post only a few minutes to find a worker at
the Red Cross brokering babies.
"We've just acquired an abandoned baby a
couple days ago. The mother abandoned her baby here because she is very, very
poor. Do you want a boy or girl," asked the worker.
"The baby is so
dear. If you want, I can get her for you immediately. I gave the birth mother
$100. It is up to you how much you give me in exchange for the baby.
you don't get the baby now, some one will get the baby tomorrow, or the day
after tomorrow," she said.
After finding a baby, the facilitator's
clients would pay more bribes to obtain false papers from Phnom Penh's Nutrition
Center certifying the baby as an orphan.
"They had to spend a few hundred
dollars to get the letter saying that the baby was coming from the Nutrition
Center," he said.
The Director of the Nutrition Center, Mrs Sovanna, said
she could not answer any questions unless she had approval from the Ministry of
Social Affairs (MoSA).
"All I dare say is that the information you have
heard is not true. I cannot say anything more than this."
contacted another facilitator who assists in independent adoptions and he
confirmed that bribe money must be paid to both the Cambodian Red Cross Health
Center's maternity department Director and the Director of the Nutrition Center
for the papers.
The Nutrition Center, funded by the French NGO Aspeca,
was established in 1980 to care for abandoned babies or orphans. Sovanna has
been the Director there for eight years. Of the 110 babies now at the center 41
are HIV-positive and 62 are disabled.
After the clients had a baby, a
birth certificate and false orphan papers, they would then go to MoSA to get
Government permission to adopt.
The facilitator said the Director of
MoSA's Adoption Bureau, Chem Sun Heng, interviewed the parents and examined
their documents and financial records.
"The parents had to pay $450 to
the Adoption Bureau for the paperwork fee. I learned that to get a baby, the
parents spent thousands of dollars more with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
the Council of Ministers," said the facilitator who helped his clients only as
far as MoSA.
"I believe that it is corruption money. Whenever they run
the paperwork, they want a commission from the parents," he said.
Heng refused a Post request for an interview.
But a source at MoSA, who
spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, said any money given to the
Adoption Bureau is simply a "donation" and the parents are given receipts. These
donation funds are used to buy office supplies for the ministry, as well as
provide "gifts" of food and medicine to orphanages.
The MoSA source said
the Government has no official adoption fees, nevertheless American adoption
agencies contacted by the Post charge their clients $5,500 for "legal adoption
fees" in Cambodia.
Neither the Government nor the agencies will say which
ministries receive these fees.
On June 15 international adoptions from
Cambodia were suspended by Prime Minister Hun Sen till reforms were made to the
The MoSA source said irregularities in Cambodia's adoption
procedures are being addressed and the suspension is expected to be lifted soon.
American agencies are telling their clients that adoptions from Cambodia will
resume in a few weeks.
Directives have been sent to orphanages across
Cambodia stating that brokers looking for children in the countryside, or who
falsify documents saying that a baby was abandoned by the mother, shall be
arrested on charges of child trafficking.
MoSA officials simply
dismissed allegations presented by the Post that staff at the Red Cross Health
Center and the Nutrition Center are involved in trafficking.
said if a new draft adoption subdecree is approved by the Council of Ministers,
American agencies and facilitators will not be allowed to operate in Cambodia.
Instead, adoptive parents will be forced to handle all the paperwork
The subdecree - drafted by staff from the Council of
Ministers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry and MoSA -
will soon be debated by an interministerial meeting at the Council of
The source said there will be a minimum, official "donation
fee" that will have to be paid directly into a Government bank account by the
adoptive parents - but they will be free to pay more.
This account will
be available to the above-mentioned ministries so that they can cover their
He said the Government plans to set a two-week time
limit for each ministry to examine the adoption applications, which will
probably mean a two-month stay in Cambodia for adoptive parents.