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Foreign marriage ban lifted

Foreign marriage ban lifted

New rules tighten up process, mail-order unions still illegal

ABAN on marriages between Cambodians and foreigners aimed at curbing human trafficking has been lifted, officials said Wednesday, adding that new regulations will seek to prevent internet websites from featuring mail-order Cambodian brides.

The suspension, begun in late March, was lifted on November 3, but the "new subdecree [regulating marriages] has not yet been widely publicised", said Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry's Anti-human Trafficking Department.

The ban came into effect amid alarm over the rising numbers of brokered unions between South Korean men and poor, uneducated Cambodian women.

In 2004, the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh issued 72 marriage visas to Cambodian women. By 2007, that figure had jumped to 1,759, with an additional 160 visas issued in the first month of 2008.

The new subdecree states that marriages made through agencies or brokers are still illegal, adding that "all fake marriages aimed at labour exploitation, human trafficking or sexual exploitation are prohibited".

The subdecree also insists that marriage must be based on the "voluntary policy and will" of the individual.

New procedures

Bith Kimhong said that under the new rules, foreigners must be physically present in Cambodia in order to be married and must apply for permission with the Foreign Ministry.

"The Ministry of Interior, after receiving documents from the Foreign Ministry, has to inform to all the relevant authorities on where the marriage will occur," Bith Kimhong said.

"We cannot do like before. This time, foreigners must come to Cambodia to register for marriage," he added, referring to internet unions.

Nop Sarin Sreyroth, secretary general of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, said that while she applauded the reinstatement of legal

marriages between Cambodians and foreigners, the new rules do not outline punishment for foreigners who violate the rules.

"We are looking forward to monitoring the government's implementation [of the subdecree]," she said.

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