A six-month suspension has been lifted, and now a new body will streamline legal procedures
Photo by: Sovann Philong
The South Korean embassy issued a record number of marriage visas in 2007.
A NEW organisation to regulate foreign marriages has been created following the lifting of a six-month suspension of such unions in November, officials say.
The suspension was enacted in April amid concerns over an explosion in the number of brokered unions involving poor, uneducated women. It followed the release of an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) report highlighting the plight of an increasing number of Cambodian brides migrating to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who make large profits. Some 1,759 marriage visas were issued by South Korea in 2007, up from just 72 in 2004, the report said.
The new organisation - the Association for People Protection (APP) - was licensed by the Ministry of Interior on December 12 to provide "free consultations on marriages to foreigners", an APP statement said.
The organisation has the stated aim of protecting Cambodian overseas migrants, especially women marrying foreigners, Ky Sina, president of APP, was quoted as saying in the December 30 statement.
"The duty of the association is to help people applying for passports and visas to do this legally. Any foreigner who wants to marry a Cambodian woman will have to become a member of APP," said the statement, without clarifying whether membership fees would be charged.
Preventing spousal abuse
APP will also act as a mediator "to facilitate [dialogue] and find lawyers for both husband and wife" if they have problems later in the marriage.
Koy Koung, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that currently, the burden of responsibility for preventing abusive foreign marriages falls on his ministry and the Ministry of Interior, which together carry out background checks on foreigners to establish whether they have a criminal record. The new organisation will take on this responsibility, he said.
"We have received the sub-decree [setting up APP] already. We are only waiting for the Ministry of Interior to finalise some details," said Ten Borany, deputy director of the anti-human trafficking department of the Ministry of Interior.
Ten Borany said the government has recently cracked down on marriage-brokering companies, rescinding their licences, as they suspected them of facilitating human trafficking by arranging exploitative marriages. By centralising and streamlining the procedures for legalising a Cambodian-foreigner marriage, the APP will help prevent human trafficking, he said.
In April, the government said that while no systematic exploitation was uncovered in brokering companies then operating in the Kingdom, several cases of abuse did raise a red flag - prompting the marriage suspension, You Ay, a secretary of state with the Women's Affairs Ministry told AFP at the time.
"All people have a right to marry who they want, despite any differences in nationality, because in the law we cannot allow discrimination against different nationals," said Ly Vichuta, director of local NGO Legal Support for Children and Women.
Ly Vichuta said while some foreigners marrying Cambodians went through the correct channels to legalise their unions, others did not bother and used fake or dubious documents to obtain a visa for their spouses.
"Instances of domestic violence or sexual abuse are harder to identify and assist if the marriage was not legally registered," she said.
She said that the new organisation will make it easier to help Cambodians whose foreign marriages run into difficulties, as they will all have been married legally and documented through the PPA.
Thuy Sophorn, who has been trying to marry her Malaysian boyfriend for over a year, said that she was delighted the law on foreign marriage had been clarified.
"The new law to allow foreign marriage is very good, and it can protect us from being cheated in marriage. I hope it will protect Cambodian women," she said.