The government’s request for China to no longer grant visas to single Cambodian women was lambasted by rights groups yesterday as discriminatory and misguided.
Under increasing pressure, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement calling on embassies in neighbouring countries to up their efforts to stop the trafficking of Cambodian women to China for marriage.
“For this problem, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs orders its embassies and consulates-general abroad, especially in Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, to stop providing visas to Cambodian single women,” the statement reads.
The ministry “also advises the Cambodian Embassy and Consulates-General in China not to issue any single status certificate to the Cambodian women so that brokers cannot bring them to marry with Chinese men”.
In the statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests that single Cambodian women should only be granted a working visa if they can produce an official letter of invitation, and only be granted a tourist visa if they deposit $10,000 in a Chinese bank.
Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said he was “shocked” by the ministry’s suggestions.
“It is very strong; other countries never take action like this. I know that it is in order to protect women … but it could affect other women who are single and want to have a holiday,” he said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), agreed.
“It is not a logical way to deal with the situation. It will affect the people who want … to be tourists in China; it’s not fair for them … to apply for a tourist visa and deposit that amount of money. I’m afraid that would violate individual rights,” he said.
Tola added that he was unsure why the ministry was targeting embassies in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, rather than focusing on the one in Cambodia.
“In all the cases that we intervene in, all of [the women] get visas from the embassy in Cambodia,” he said.
If the government were serious about stopping trafficking, Tola said, it would prosecute brokers and “eliminate the corruption” of its own officials.
“For us it’s quite common to hear that the embassy will ignore the victim, push the victim to go back to the home [of their abuser] or the police station,” he said.
Opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua said that rather than a “blanket ban”, stricter measures should be placed on those applying for a visa.
“When there is a woman who’s never left the country and a visa is applied for on her behalf, there should be some suspicion,” she said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment.