Official: Informal Marriage Brokers Abound

Despite the government’s recent condemnation of marriage brokerage agencies and the official closure of three such South Korean companies, Women’s Affairs Mini­stry Secretary of State You Ay said Thursday that there are more than 100 informal brokerage agencies still at work in Cambodia.

Speaking at a closed-door meeting held at the NGO World Vision, You Ay said marriage brokerage agencies are exploitative and that the government will no longer tolerate their existence.

“The government does not allow the operation of marriage brokerage services at all,” she said.

Brokerage agencies came into the spotlight in Cambodia after the International Organization for Migration issued a report stressing the vulnerability of Cambodian brides flocking to South Korea in increasing numbers. Following the report, the government banned all marriages between Cambodians and foreigners March 29, pending the creation of new legislation to regulate the process.

Many bachelors come to Cam­bodia for short “marriage tours,” during which they go to hotels and choose a bride from a pool of dozens, You Ay said. “The girls are ordered to turn around sometimes, and they have their body and skin touched to ensure that they do not have any wounds or scars.”

She acknowledged that some foreign men who frequent or live in Cambodia desire to marry local women out of “true love” but said she stands by the marriage ban until relevant legislation has been drafted.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials are expected to meet with Interior Ministry staff over finalizing a much-anticipated subdecree in the coming month, she added.

IOM project coordinator John McGeoghan could not be reached Thursday, but has said previously that it was “difficult to say” whether banning agencies would be in the best interests of Cambodian brides. A legal brokerage agency might be better able to provide pre-departure training and follow up with brides abroad than an informal broker, he said last month.

You Ay also announced her plan to form a Cambodian Brides Association in South Korea, which she said would help migrant brides gain access to the information they need to live safely and happily upon marrying.

(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)

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