THE US Embassy remains "open for business", despite the recent rejection of
visas for 13 children adopted by couples from the US, said Ambassador Kent
Wiedemann. Eight had been adopted from the Asian Orphans' Association (AOA), the
orphanage at the center of two trafficking investigations.
Social Affairs for Kandal province, Touch Phom, said another four children were
from the state-run Cambodian Hungarian Friendship Orphanage, and one from a
Wiedemann said the current case would not affect any
of the roughly 600 adoptions approved so far this year, adding that the embassy
was currently making appointments with other prospective parents. He warned the
embassy would be much more careful about issuing visas in
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith rejected the idea of the
government imposing a moratorium as a result of the fraud
"Up to this time we have no specific information about these
cases. There [would have to be a full] investigation before we [would] instigate
a moratorium on adoptions," he said. "We cannot do it just based on an
The fate of the children who were denied visas, however,
remains in an uncertain legal limbo, with the Cambodian government recognizing
the adoption and the US Government alleging fraud.
"They are Cambodian
children, and that's about all I can say about their status. [Their adoption
status] is the responsibility of the Cambodian government but that's separate
from whether a child is a legitimate orphan and eligible for a visa to travel to
the United States," Wiedemann said.
Child welfare department director at
the Ministry of Social Affairs, Mao Sovadei, said he did not know whether any of
the babies were registered with his department but, if not, he "would not
"I do not know anything [about the allegations of
fraud]. It is the affair of the US Embassy [to suspend visas]," Sovadei said.
"The adoptive parents said they will not return those babies to my
center. They asked someone they trust to look after them," said Puth Serey,
president of the Asian Orphan's Association from which eight of the children
One of those parents, Don Korta, in an email to the Post
November 17, wrote: "We plan on appealing it at this time. We cannot do that
though until we receive our 'official' letter from INS [Immigration and
Naturalization Service]. The US Embassy provided us with no other
The parents have 30 days from receipt of the INS letter to
appeal the decision. Korta indicated that he doubted the strength of the INS
"The ambassador [in a phone call to Korta's wife Linda]
referred to our children as being 'taken from their mothers and trafficked'.
When she asked him if the children would be given back to their mothers if we
did not appeal, he stated he doubted anyone would ever know who the mothers
are," Korta wrote. "How can they know they were taken from their mothers, if
they don't even know who the mothers are?"
Wiedemann said it was
unfortunate that parents felt embittered about US authorities' handling of the
"Clearly they are being victimized by those perpetrating the fraud
and not by those in the INS which is protecting them from being party to fraud,"
Wiedemann said the decision to reject visa applications was not
a blanket ruling against adoptions in Cambodia or against any particular
adoption facilitators, saying that each case had been examined
"We've done full field investigations talking to
individuals who are involved in the whole document chain of each case. [The
purpose of the investigation was] to determine under US law if the children are
eligible to be adopted, that it's clear that they are orphans and they have
adequate documents as such. The investigations showed that they have not and
they likely are not legitimate orphans," the ambassador said.
AOA president Serey rejects allegations of fraud.
"The US Embassy said
the adoption papers are a forgery. I understand that is not true because the
papers were screened appropriately by the government. If it is true, I am the
first [who will] land in jail," he said.
While the US would not suspend
adoptions altogether, Wiedemann said that he was having ongoing discussions with
MOSALVY and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"I'm discussing ways in
which to eradicate fraud and trafficking in children for the purposes of
adoption ... in order to facilitate our services to American citizens and to
protect them and Cambodian children and their birth parents," he said.