The Netherlands on Tuesday announced a ban on all adoptions from Cambodia, after a government investigation labeled the current system corrupt and detrimental to the rights of children, The Associated Press reported.
A Dutch investigation team based at the Netherlands Embassy in Bangkok compiled a report on the current adoption climate, working closely with the Phnom Penh office of the UN Children’s Fund.
“Based on the report, Justice Minister [Piet Hein] Donner concluded that the adoption procedure in Cambodia grossly strays from the principles and safeguards of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and The Hague Adoption Treaty,” AP quoted the ministry as saying.
Investigators found that children are routinely sold to adoption agents for between $20 and $100. Their biological parents are often unaware that the children are up for adoption in another country, the report said.
Louis George Arsenault, country representative for Unicef, said Wednesday he was pleased with the Dutch government’s decision.
“This is what we have been working toward,” he said. “We have been working with the Dutch government on trafficking and the protection of children’s rights in Cambodia, and this decision came as part of that.”
Unicef spent several years drafting an abuse-proof adoption law, and presented it to the government in 2000, Arsenault said. A subdecree was passed the following year, but this does not legitimize adoptions, he said; only a new law can do that. The draft adoption law is in line with the Convention of the Rights of Child and is ready for debate at the National Assembly, Arsenault said. “Everything is finalized, so, hopefully, it’ll be passed by early 2004.”
Canada and the US also have imposed moratoriums on adoptions, while France is reportedly also considering a suspension.
“If governments carry on as they have done, it would be counterproductive to everything we have been doing,” Arsenault said. “We have been advising countries to stop adoptions until the law is passed: Until then, it is effectively illegal.”