Two poor mothers were reunited with their infant sons this week in Municipal Court, nearly six months after they were taken by three alleged child traffickers who gave them $80 each.
The divorced mothers say that baby dealers tricked each of them into giving up one son on June 18, with promises that the infants would be well cared for, educated and fed at a center the women could visit once a month.
Adoption was not discussed, the women told aid workers for the NGO Licadho.
The reunions were facilitated on Tuesday by the Municipal Court, whose investigation has led to charges of human trafficking against three people affiliated with the Khmer-American Orphans Association, the organization that had possession of the two boys.
It was the second such attempt to reunite the mothers with their children. An initial attempt on Nov 26, also in Municipal Court, failed when the mothers refused to drop charges against the alleged baby traffickers, according to Yung Phanit, a Cambodian Defenders Project lawyer who is representing the two mothers.
The mothers said they were allowed to hold their children during the Nov 26 proceedings, but after several hours of negotiation the boys were again taken away and charges were filed. The prosecutor said custody of the children would be decided at a later date, leading to Tuesday’s court hearing.
The director of KAOA, Sea Visoth, volunteered to return the two boys to the mothers on Tuesday, Yung Phanit said. Sea Visoth could not be reached for comment Thursday.
KAOA has Phnom Penh offices in Chaom Chao commune, Dangkao district, but a phone listing or address could not be found for them Thursday.
The KAOA case emerged as investigators looked at a different case of alleged baby trafficking, one that led to a Sept 3 police raid on two Tuol Kok houses. Ten infants and two children were removed from the two houses.
The two mothers in Tuesday’s case complained to Licadho after learning of the Sept 3 police raid. They told aid workers that they repeatedly asked for the name or location of the center where their boys were being kept, and were told only that they were in the Chaom Chao commune.
The two mothers say that when they asked for their children back, they were told they would have to pay $150, which they did not have.
The mothers testified in court that the person who took their babies also offered them money if they could find other babies or children to give to the organization.
One of the mothers was offered $100 and a sack of rice if she gave up her 8-year-old daughter, Licadho aid workers said.
Allegations of baby trafficking have risen several times in Cambodia, leading to a complete shutdown of all adoptions last year. Adoptions resumed only after the Cambodian government passed a new law in March meant to close corrupt orphanages.
US and other Western couples spend up to $20,000 to adopt children in Cambodia, often paying thousands of dollars to agencies that act as intermediaries between the parents and orphanages.