Friday, April 11, 2008

Cambodia Halts Marriages with Foreigners to Combat Trafficking

From the International Herald Tribune:

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia- The Cambodian government has halted processing all documents for marriages of its citizens with foreigners as a new step to minimize the possibility of human trafficking, officials said Thursday.

The suspension was prompted by concerns about the potential for exploitation and trafficking following a recent surge in the number of Cambodian women marrying South Korean men, said Deputy Minister of Women's Affairs You Ay.

She said that as of last Saturday, approval for all paperwork needed for marrying foreigners has been put on hold. She did not say how long the measure will last, but that it was introduced so that government agencies involved in processing foreign marriage requests "can work to strengthen their procedures."

"We are not denying our people's rights to marry foreigners, nor are we being discriminatory," she said. "But we have also seen the negative aspects out of such marriages" recently, she said, adding that the suspension affects all foreigners, not just South Koreans. She was not able to say how many Cambodian nationals have married foreigners.

The South Korean connection made headlines here last month after a report by the Geneva-based International Organization of Migration revealed that thousands of men had come to marry Cambodian women through brokers. Over the past four years, some 2,500 Cambodian women have wedded South Korean men, mostly through the services of underground matchmaking businesses, according to the report. It said each man would pay up to US$20,000 (€12,790) to marry a woman but that a bride's family would collect only about US$1,000 (€640), while the rest of the money would go to brokers.

Although their marriages appeared to be legal, the government has expressed concerns that brokered marriages could become a cover for human trafficking, in which women are tricked or forced into marriage.

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