Cablegate: A/S Harty Discusses Adoptions, Ivs in Cambodia

Published: Tue 19 Sep 2006 01:31 AM
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1. (SBU) Summary. RGC officials from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA) and Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth
Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) told visiting CA A/S Harty that they support
Cambodia's ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry
Adoption and have added the Convention to the list submitted to the
National Assembly for ratification. They acknowledged that the RGC
has been working on an adoption law for three years and pledged to
try and bring it before the legislature in 2007. MOSAVY explained
its plans to establish infrastructure that would improve
transparency and protect the interests of all parties in the
adoption process. The Ambassador expressed concern about RGC
treatment of newly arrived Montagnards in Cambodia. A/S Harty and
the Ambassador briefed local press about the resumption of immigrant
visas. End Summary.
2. (U) CA A/S Harty and the Ambassador called on Acting Foreign
Minister Long Visalo and Minister Ith Sam Heng of MOSAVY on
September 13 to inform the RGC about the planned return of immigrant
visa processing to Phnom Penh and to review GOC progress on
adoptions since her October 2004 visit. CA Special Assistant Julie
Ruterbories, CA/OCS/CI Director Ellen Conway and Phnom Penh CONS
chief Anne Simon (notetaker) also attended.
MFA Supports Hague Ratification
3. (SBU) Acting ForMin Long Visalo told A/S Harty that the RGC will
become a signatory to the Hague convention because the adoption law
was still in progress at MOSAVY after three years. The Hague
convention would provide a procedural framework that matches RGC and
USG goals for child welfare. He said that PM Hun Sen
agreed, so the MFA had placed the Hague convention on the list of
treaties sent to the National Assembly for ratification, although he
caveated that it could take some time since the Assembly has a full
agenda. Still, Visalo expects that the Assembly would act on the
Hague ratification faster than the proposed adoption law. He saw
both mechanisms as complementary and acknowledged the RGC's desire
to be transparent and avoid the appearance of adoption as a form of
child trafficking.
4. (SBU) Visalo laid out several Cambodian ground rules for
adoptions. He strongly opposes the presence of foreign adoption
agencies or intermediaries. He believes fees should only be paid to
government agencies that provide a service (e.g., passports,
required documents). He professed to want to protect the children,
biological parents and prospective adoptive parents. He reviewed
the history of the January 2004 arrest of adoption provider Lauren
Galindo and his staunch opposition to her activities at the time.
When asked about a future Hague Central Authority, Visalo indicated
the jurisdiction was still under negotiation with MOSAVY, but he
made clear that he was advocating for MFA control.
5. (U) A/S Harty invited the RGC to come to the United States for
consultations on the Hague Convention and offered CA's expertise in
establishing a Central Authority. She emphasized the need for
transparency, the importance of building necessary institutions to
protect the rights of all parties and urged passage of the adoption
law in addition to ratification of the Hague Convention.
6. (SBU) Switching gears at the end of the meeting, the Ambassador
put Visalo and the MFA on notice that problems continued with RGC
treatment of arriving Montagnard refugees from Vietnam and that the
USG was concerned about refoulement. Visalo professed not to know
about any problems or violations of the MOU between Cambodia and
Vietnam, but requested that UNHCR contact the MFA by letter so that
he could investigate. He underscored continued RGC support for its
obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
MOSAVY Working on Legislation and Procedures
7. (SBU) MOSAVY Minister Ith Sam Heng readily updated A/S Harty on
"new developments" on adoptions. He admitted the law was not moving
quickly enough, but explained the RGC had decided to try and ratify
the Hague Convention in the meantime. He estimated that
ratification would take about six months. The government still
intends to present the adoption law, but its timetable is longer.
The law is currently nearing the end of a review to ensure
conformity with Cambodian civil law by the Ministry of Justice,
MOSAVY, MFA, UNICEF and a Japanese consultant. Heng estimated the
law would be sent for interministerial discussion by the end of
2006. It would then go to the legislature and hopefully be passed
by the end of 2007.
8. (SBU) MOSAVY is also working in advance on "frameworks" for
adoption that would conform to the Hague Convention and ensure
adoptions are conducted in a transparent manner. The Ministry is
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strengthening the capacity of officials to determine the identity of
children who are in orphanages and will set a legal fee schedule to
prevent illegal payments being made in the adoption process. Heng
also plans to establish an "inter-country adoption center" which
will oversee the transfer and adoption of children. However, the
center would not be the country's Hague Central Authority. MOSAVY
wants that role since it has the legal authority to issue the final
certificates of adoption, but Heng did note that the decision would
be made by the government at the highest level. Heng asked for
technical help and said he planned send a team to the United States
to study adoption soon. He noted he had previously been to China,
was impressed with its system and the many American adoptive parents
he met while there, but wanted to create a system suitable for
9. (SBU) A/S Harty assured Heng that in anticipation of significant
progress she would try to return in November 2007, and reiterated
the offer made to the MFA for the RGC to come to the United States
for consultations on Hague implementation. She termed MOSAVY's
three-part strategy terrific. The Ambassador told Heng that he
would push the Council of Ministers to act on the legislation as
soon as MOSAVY could get it to them.
Resumption of IVs - Press Event
10. (SBU) A/S Harty also informed her interlocutors that CA has
approved the return of immigrant visa processing to Phnom Penh in
the near future, though the original starting date has been
postponed due to a case of malfeasance in the office. Officials
agreed this was a positive sign of the developing relationship
between the U.S. and Cambodia. She later made a similar
announcement at a well attended press conference at the Embassy,
which was covered by all the major Cambodian news outlets.
11. (SBU) Comment: The visit of a high-ranking senior consular
official has pushed the RGC to find a faster way to improve its
adoption system. We welcome the news that the RGC is working on a
framework and hopes to send experts to the U.S. We foresee a turf
conflict between MOSAVY and the MFA over the Hague Central
Authority. However, both ministries seem to share the U.S. goals of
transparency, protection of the child, birth parents and prospective
adoptive parent, preventing fraud and building institutions and
capacity. Embassy Phnom Penh will work to ensure that any upcoming
delegation includes representatives from the MFA, MOSAVY and the
Ministry of Justice. The Ambassador plans to engage RGC officials
regularly on adoptions. End comment.
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