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Govt praises charges in marriage racket

Govt praises charges in marriage racket

CAMBODIAN officials yesterday praised South Korean prosecutors for bringing charges against a matchmaking agent who allegedly arranged a group interview involving 25 Cambodian women and a South Korean bachelor.

The agent surnamed Lee allegedly failed to tell his client of restrictions in Cambodia on international marriages, including a ban on group interviews with brides, the Seoul central prosecution office said Friday.

If convicted, Lee faces up to 3 million won (about US$2,500) in fines, prosecutors said.

“Cambodia is very pleased with South Korea for good cooperation as a partner to charge the Korean man,” Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday.

A Cambodian agent has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison over the case, which prompted the government to impose in March a temporary ban on marriages between Cambodian women and South Korean men.

Officials said the ban would remain in place until the government had established an effective screening mechanism to prevent cases of trafficking.

When it was lifted in late April, Koy Kuong said the screening mechanism had taken the form of a requirement that foreigners looking to marry Cambodians appear in person to submit applications to his ministry as well as to the Interior Ministry and local authorities.

Last month, Koy Kuong said that 300 applications had been processed since the lifting of the ban, and that all had been approved.

He said yesterday that since the new measures were put in place there appeared to have been a reduction in the number of women being brought by marriage brokers to Phnom Penh from the provinces in order to meet Korean suitors.

Nevertheless, Chou Bun Eng, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said that officials were continuing to collaborate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate Cambodian and Korean brokers suspected of forging documents required for obtaining marriage licences.

“We have experience in several of these cases and have warned the women to be cautious. We are also learning about the the tactics used to forge public documents,” Chou Bun Eng said.

An official at the South Korean embassy said it had been diligent in informing Koreans of procedural changes.

Commenting on the new charges, counsellor Huh Jungae said: “According to an agreement between South Korea and the Cambodian government, any marriage brokering attempted in Cambodia during the period of the ban was considered illegal, and it appears to be on this basis the Seoul central prosecution office has charged the man.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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