Italian Appeals To Have Marriage Ban Revoked

A 60-year-old Italian man looking to marry his Cambodian girlfriend has begun a campaign calling on those who similarly feel that their rights have been violated by the ban on marriages between Cam­­bodians and foreigners to join him in filing a complaint.

Stefano Magistretti, who placed an advertisement in at least one lo­cal newspaper Thursday, is calling on interested parties to contact him and sign a letter of complaint.

“I think that our rights are being violated,” Magistretti said in a telephone interview.

“You can’t tell me any other country in the world where it is forbidden for foreigners to marry nationals,” he said.

Magistretti, who said he works as an international consultant, said he has been living in Cambodia for five years. He said that his 32-year-old fiancee, whom he met through mutual friends four years ago, went to see local officials in Kandal pro­vince about getting married March 27—two days before the ban was enacted.

“We were told everything was OK, and then on the 29th of March, the unspeakable Cambo­dian government, because they were afraid of offending the South Kor­eans said we’ll forget every sort of marriage. It is extremely frustrating for us,” he said, adding that they went ahead with a planned wedding celebration at Open Wine in Phnom Penh on April 10.

The ban followed the release of a report on the increasing number of Cambodian brides traveling to South Korea.

As of Thursday afternoon, Magi­stretti said he had heard from one Cambodian national who expressed the desire to sign his letter—which he plans to send to the Cambodian go­vernment, foreign embassies and lo­cal and international media.

“I’ll give it a few days,” he said.

Kek Galabru, president of rights group Licadho, said she agrees the ban infringes on the rights of Cam­bodians to marry whomever they choose.

“Every woman can marry a man she loves without discrimination based on their color, their race or their different nationality,” she said, adding that she acknowledges the ban is intended to curb trafficking.

“Even if the government has the good will to stop this kind of trafficking, I think we can find another way,” she added.

Other ways to address the issue include informing women of their rights and how they can avoid being trafficked, as well as stressing the need to get to know your fiance prior to marriage and ensuring that marriage papers are valid in your new country of residence so that brides will have full access to their rights there, Kek Galabru said.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said that he apologizes for people inconvenienced by the ban, but that the measure is necessary in order for the government to figure out a way to combat the trafficking for which the ban was initially imposed.

“We feel sorry for the problems that are occurring, but they have to wait for the Cambodian government to work out a way to avoid trafficking,” he said.

Bith Kimhong added that he wasn’t sure when the new foreign marriage legislation would be approved.

French embassy First Secretary Fabyene Mansencal said few many French nationals have been inconvenienced by the ban, though she didn’t have exact numbers.

“The Cambodian authorities are working on the problem, and we are waiting for their decision,” she said.

German Ambassador Frank Marcus Mann said he was un­aware of any problems caused by the ban involving German na­tionals. There is no Italian embassy in Cambodia.

(Additional reporting by Chhay Channyda)


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