Swedish Adoption License Scandal in Cambodia

“Cancel Adoption Centre’s (AC) license to adopt from Cambodia!” demands the Embassy of Sweden in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Swedish National Board for Inter-country Adoptions (NIA) issued a license on 20th March 2002 to AC, which is the second largest adoption agency in the world. This decision is now heavily criticised by Sweden’s own representation in Cambodia.
The Embassy of Sweden writes in an unusually emotional and upset letter, dated 6th June 2002, to NIA that AC’s documentation prior to the licensing by NIA is deceptive, contains wrongful information, is faulty and misleading.

These Cambodian children are offered Swedish parents for an “administrative fee” of 4000 US dollars.
Photo: Dennis Thern

The United States has stopped all adoptions from Cambodia because of substantiated suspicion of widespread corruption, trade with children and forged documents related to adoptions of children from the still war marked country.
Photo: Dennis Thern

Who is she? Who knows?
Photo: Dennis Thern

“With reference to this and enclosed documentation the Embassy reiterates its demand that the license to AC is inhibited,” the five page letter ends, which in detail analyses the conditions for adoptions in Cambodia and rejects all arguments which AC lined up in favour of its application to NIA.
Some examples: Clear laws and regulations for adoptions are not in place, contrary to what AC claims

AC describes an apparent bribe of USD 4000, in a country where adoptions officially are free of charge, as “administrative fees” for the adoption.

Warnings made by UNICEF are neglected

“NIA’s decision in this matter is strange and deplorable,” writes the Embassy that finds it “amazing” that NIA did not ask for more information about the situation in Cambodia.
“No less surprising is it, that NIA did not discover the inadequacies in AC’s documentation and the apparent risks involved with international adoptions from Cambodia, not least in the light of experiences from other countries in the region,” says the Embassy in its verdict of NIA’s dealing with the application.
Not even the nursery in Phnom Penh, which AC selected and which is run by Missionaries of Charity, escapes suspicions of irregularities.
“An initiated source testifies that Missionaries of Charity in at least one case did not allow relatives to visit children in the nursery. The same source does also claim that several of the children at the nursery have problems relating and attaching themselves to adults,” writes the Embassy.
Furthermore, AC has not bothered to find out whether the nursery knows where the children come from, whether documentation about the children is filed or can be verified, and whether the nursery actually does have a license to perform inter-country adoptions, the Embassy says.
The reaction from the Embassy of Sweden in Phnom Penh is supported by other embassies in the Cambodian capital.
“They must be out of their minds!” said the US Embassy in Phnom Penh when told about NIA’s green light to adopt from Cambodia.
UNICEF’s staff working with adoption issues in Cambodia in a meeting with the Swedish Embassy in Phnom Penh on 30 May likewise supported the Embassy’s criticism of AC and NIA.
“UNICEF expressed great concerns that Sweden has authorized a Swedish adoption agency to adopt from Cambodia,” the Embassy writes.
Sweden’s Ambassador to Cambodia is H.E. Mr. Jan Nordlander, who is accredited from Bangkok.
“It is our letter, but I do not wish to comment on any details in it as it is addressed to a Swedish state agency. But generally speaking I believe it would be unfortunate if one, with the situation we have in Cambodia, start adoptions.”
The official Swedish criticism of the NIA – which under normal circumstances should be a cautious state agency supervising adoptions – relates closely to what happened in the US on 21 December 2001 when all adoptions from Cambodia to the United States were stopped because of substantiated suspicion of widespread corruption, trade with children and forged documents related to adoptions of children from the still war marked country.
Shortly after, a number of US immigration and legal experts travel to Cambodia. Their mission was to check the identities of children already marked and in waiting for adoption to the US, as well as analyse the general system for adoptions from Cambodia. This work is not yet concluded. But it is already clear, that a transparent system with proper laws and regulations for inter-country adoptions is not yet in place in Cambodia.
Still, AC’s license to adopt children from Cambodia remains at this point still in force.

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