A stream of adoptive parents and their Cambodian infants flowed through the US
Embassy in Phnom Penh, April 10 and 11 where they obtained visas to take the
Cambodian children to the US.
Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said that 45
adoptions were approved under a joint Cambodian and US government
"The Cambodian government approved their orphan status and we
participated by ensuring the children weren't trafficked," he said.
parents are part of a "humanitarian initiative" of the US Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) to process a limited number of international
adoptions from Cambodia to the US.
On December 21, 2001 the INS ceased
issuing visas to the US amid widespread allegations of fraud and baby selling in
Cambodia's adoption process.
Hundreds of families who were in the process
of adopting Cambodian children were left stranded by the move and lobbied the US
Congress and the INS. The result was a lifting of the adoption ban for those
people in the final stages of adopting when the suspension was announced.
"Our aim is to work through those cases [at a rate] determined by the
INS," Wiedemann said, adding that another group would probably be processed in
the next few weeks.
INS investigators have been visiting orphanages to
examine individual cases for adoption. Investigations did not find hard evidence
of trafficking, but the US ambassador said that was no guarantee that all the
children were bona fide orphans.
"US law requires that the child is an
orphan. One way to establish that is to try to trace the parent. If we can't
find them that doesn't mean the child hasn't been trafficked; that just means we
can't find them," Wiedemann said.
Last year a dozen cases were held up
for several months because INS investigators determined that the documents were
"In the cases we approved this week we concluded that the
documents were valid after considerable investigation," Wiedemann said. "But
documents here are all too often not reliable; they're issued locally on an
adhoc and unregulated basis and the processing is often carried out by the
The US Embassy has been lobbying the Cambodian government to
revamp the system of international adoption. Until that is done the suspension
on issuing new visas to any except those already in the final stages of
adopting, such as this group of 45, is expected to remain in place.
number of US couples and their adopted children have been holed up for weeks in
several upmarket hotels in Phnom Penh awaiting visa appointments.
the course of investigations] we've come across cases of trafficking. It is
clear that it is still endemic. The sad thing is that you have a lot of real
orphans here but you also have a lot of unscrupulous, indeed criminal, people
who acquire children by illicit means, and everyone, including the parents, is
taken advantage of," Wiedemann said.