News/Thailand: Baby trafficking becomes lucrative business in Vietnam

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Subject: News/Thailand: Baby trafficking becomes lucrative business in Vietnam
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Jan 28 2000 - 09:26:21 EST


         Baby trafficking becomes lucrative business in Vietnam

OTC 1-28-00 5:48 AM

BANGKOK, Jan. 28 (Kyodo) -- By: Tim Johnson The trafficking of Vietnamese
babies for adoption by foreigners has risen sharply in recent years to
become a multimillion dollar business, according to a report submitted to
a conference on child trafficking in Southeast Asia that ended Friday.
   "With children being sold for up to 5,000 dollars each, child
trafficking has become a lucrative business," said the report by the
International Organization for Migration, a Geneva-based humanitarian
group.
   "To keep up with the demand, Vietnamese women are reportedly rushing to
produce babies to sell them to foreigners, unlike in the past, when
adopted children were mostly abandoned children or those coming from very
poor families," it said.
   The report noted that authorities in both the northern and southern
parts of Vietnam have recently uncovered child-for-sale syndicates. The
groups have procured hundreds of babies from poor families for illegal
adoption since 1996.
   "What happens to these children once they have been smuggled to other
countries is not known. Under a worse-case scenario, adoption could also
be used as a scheme to procure children for other purposes," it said.
   Thousands of Vietnamese babies are adopted abroad every year.
   Foreigners, mostly from the United States and France, who want to adopt
Vietnamese children usually must go through a legal process that takes as
long as three months. At least one parent has to travel to Vietnam for a
stay ranging from one to four weeks.
   Some knowingly or unknowingly engage unauthorized agents linked to
corrupt officials who charge large sums to ensure that their applications
will be quickly processed.
   The French government last April temporarily suspended adoptions of
Vietnamese children pending the introduction of watertight vetting
   procedures.
   A U.S. State Department advisory warns prospective parents that some
Vietnamese families may be tempted to release their children
inappropriately for adoption "either out of greed or with the intent of
securing them a better economic future."
   Noting that the Vietnamese appear to have "a more elastic definition
than do we" of what constitutes an orphaned or abandoned child, it says
children are sometimes relinquished to orphanages by two living, healthy
parents who claim they are not economically able to care for the child.
   "Such assertions cannot be investigated," it says, citing endemic
forgery of official documents in Vietnam. The U.S. currently takes in more
adopted children from abroad than all other countries combined.
   Meanwhile, nine people involved in a ring that trafficked 199 babies
abroad from 1995 to 1997 were sentenced earlier this month to prison terms
of up to 20 years by a court in the southern province of An Giang. The
defendants include a provincial justice department official and the
director of an orphan care center.
   Unwed mothers and parents from destitute rural families were told by
corrupt doctors and nurses that their children would be looked after by
the health officials' relatives. The children were then brought to the
orphanage to be sold to foreigners, according to local media reports.
   Last July, authorities in the northern province of Bac Can uncovered a
child-trafficking operation alleged to have sold 77 children to foreigners
during the previous 18 months.
   Also in July, authorities in the northern province of Ninh Binh filed
charges against more than a dozen people, including health and justice
department officials, for alleged involvement in a racket involving the
sale of some 350 children to foreigners over a three-year period.
   -0-


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