A 5-month-old baby who was sold by her mother to a market vendor in Preah Vihear for $125 was returned to her grandmother yesterday after the family complained to authorities, police said.
Local officials said the vendor was simply trying to adopt the child, but child protection advocates criticised the deal as a human-trafficking case and said both the mother and the woman who purchased the baby should be punished.
According to M’lou Prey I Commune Police Chief Sou Smak, the baby’s mother, 25-year-old Uon Im from Purteab village in Chheb district, sold the 5-month-old to a Kampong Branak market vendor last Saturday after splitting up with the baby’s father.
After the baby’s grandmother and aunt filed a complaint with police, officials found the market vendor, who agreed to give the baby back.
Prang Thida, head of the provincial Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office, said the vendor, who is married but childless, was not aware the exchange was illegal.
“[Im] broke up with her husband and she is poor, has a mental problem and could not raise her baby. The vendor agreed to raise and love the baby very much, regarding the baby as her own child,” Thida said.
Because the vendor readily agreed to give the baby back, authorities decided not to pursue the case, according to Thida.
The grandmother also dropped her complaint against the vendor.
But Nget Thy, director of the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights, said the police should not have let the buyer go.
“We understand there are many poor families, and they have so many children in the family,” Thy said. But if someone exchanges money for children, “that means they are a trafficker; it is against the law”.
Lor Chan, Preah Vihear provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, agreed the exchange counted as child trafficking under the law. He said that Adhoc may investigate the case.
Purteab Village Chief Yean Chhay said Im also had a 1-year-old son from a previous marriage whom she sold for $50 last year to an unidentified man.
“It is known that she is poor, so she sold them,” Chhay said, adding that nobody knows where the 1-year-old is now.
Authorities are still looking for the baby’s mother, who was not at home yesterday morning.
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