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PM Bars Marriage Agencies

By: Ly Meng Hour and The Mekong Times Posted: February-20-2008 in
Ly Meng Hour and The Mekong Times

Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered authorities to cancel the business licenses of private marriage agencies offering 'mail order' Cambodian brides for foreign men at a meeting of the Cambodia National Council for Women (CNCW) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday morning. The premier said the move is a bid to curb the trafficking of Cambodian women to foreign countries.

You Pasith, deputy secretary general of CNCW, said the Ministry of Commerce will annul the business licenses of the companies in question Feb 19.

Hun Sen said it is unbelievable that companies that, as he termed it, "seek husbands for Cambodian women" have licenses, adding that he considered such businesses to be human traffickers.

The premier also ordered the Ministry of Interior to instruct local authorities to take care when issuing a marriage certificate allowing a Cambodian woman to marry a foreign man.

Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, voiced support for Hun Sen's order, saying it would help to thwart cross-border human trafficking by private companies. "[The number of] Cambodian women getting married for [the right to stay] overseas is still rising. Conmen secretly match Cambodian women with foreign men," she said, warning Cambodian women "to seek more understanding before marrying foreign men. They should have legal permission from the embassy of their husbands' country of origin to stay in their husband's country before leaving."

Mao Thora, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, denied that his ministry has issued licenses to private marriage agencies, though he admitted that Cambodian women do sometimes marry foreign men for their nationality.

One Phnom Penh-based marriage broker said that such businesses can be legal. An employee of a Korean-owned company claimed that: "There is legal approval for companies that arrange marriages between Cambodian women and Korean men. There have been no problems in the year we have been open." There are many safeguards already in place, the employee continued, including application forms to fill in and an interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives the telephone number and address of the Cambodian Embassy in Korea to these women to call in case they have any problems," he said.

Reports from the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Civil Society revealed that there have been problems in marriages between Cambodian women and foreign men from Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea. In Taiwan, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC) discovered that 5,000 young women had been trafficked through marriage. Some were treated by their husbands as slaves, and others were sold to brothels as sex workers. Nob Sarin Sreyrath, secretary general of the CWCC, explained that "poverty unemployment, and the intentto earn money to support their family are factors forcing young Cambodian women marry foreign men."

In addition to barring marriage agencies, Prime Minister Hun Sen heard the results of an investigation into the human trafficking case at Phom Penh's Chhay Hour II Hotel. Ing Kantha Phavi reported that Ly Vuoch Leng, president of the Court of Appeals, had been removed from her position because of implications of graft. Three Supreme Council of Magistracy members, three judges of the Court of Appeals, and a Deputy Prosecutor General to Court of Appeals were officially warned over the same case. The infamous Chhay Hour II Hotel case was the driving force of the police's 2005 suppression of the trade in virgins.

Ly Meng Hour is a reporter for the The Mekong Times

This article first appeared in The Mekong Times
The Mekong Times is a daily newspaper distributed in Cambodia.
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