Stolen Vietnamese babies sold for adoption in West: report

AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki

Thomas Bell
April 27, 2008

VIETNAMESE babies are being bought or stolen from parents to be sold for adoption in the West, according to a US Embassy investigation.

In some cases hospitals sent babies to orphanages after their parents were unable to pay medical bills. In another, a grandmother sent a girl for adoption without telling the parents.

The report by the US Embassy in Hanoi said: “In five provinces, we discovered unlicensed, unregulated facilities that provide free room and board to pregnant women in return for their commitment to relinquish their children upon birth.”

The babies were then recorded as “deserted”, said the report. If the mother had a change of heart she had to pay back the cost of her accommodation, the report said.

More commonly, parents are persuaded by health officials or orphanage staff to put their children into care in exchange for a payment of about $A400. They are often told they can visit the child or that it will be returned to them after a few years.

“In a terrifying number of cases the parents had no idea they would never see their child again,” said Angela Aggeler, an embassy spokesman.

Some of the 42 American adoption agencies in Vietnam paid for the government officials who licensed them to fly to the US for shopping trips.

These agencies quote an average cost to would-be adoptive parents of about $A25,500 for fees and travel.

Many note on their websites that they make donations to orphanages or fund them outright. But, according to the report, these donations often amount to a kind of finder’s fee.

It said the director of one orphanage was paid a fixed amount in cash every month for each child available for international adoption.

“This orphanage has seen the number of infants in its care rise more than 2000% in the past year, but it has not made significant increases in staff,” the report said.

Vu Doc Long, Vietnam’s top adoption official, called the report’s allegations groundless and rejected DNA testing or spot-checks on orphanages as an unacceptable way to reduce the problem. “We are very committed to international adoption,” said Ms Aggeler. “We just want to make sure that every child is really an orphan.”

Source: The Age

U.S. Embassy Report Faults Vietnam’s Oversight of Adoptions

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: April 26, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has failed to police its adoption system, allowing corruption, fraud and baby-selling to flourish, the United States Embassy here says in a new report obtained by The Associated Press.

The nine-page document describes brokers scouring villages for babies, hospitals selling infants whose mothers cannot pay their bills and a grandmother giving away her grandchild without telling the child’s mother.

“I’m shocked and deeply troubled by the worst of the worst cases,” said Jonathan Aloisi, deputy chief of mission at the United States Embassy in Hanoi.

Vietnam’s top adoption official called the concerns “groundless.” Bribery of orphanage officials may occur, but serious offenses like baby-selling or kidnapping are not a problem, said the official, Vu Duc Long, director of the Department of International Adoptions.

The dispute comes amid a boom in adoptions from Vietnam. Americans adopted more than 1,200 Vietnamese children over the 18 months ending March 31. In 2007, adoptions surged more than 400 percent from a year earlier, with 828 Vietnamese children adopted by American families.

American adoption agencies active in Vietnam said that despite some cases of wrongdoing, most adoptions in the country were ethical.

“Our experience has been a good one,” said Susan Cox, vice president of public policy with Holt International Children’s Services, based in Eugene, Ore., which has operated in Vietnam since the 1970s. “We are concerned about any unethical practices, but I would not agree that these cases are indicative of adoptions in Vietnam.”

The United States suspended all adoptions from Vietnam in 2003 over concerns about corruption. Adoptions resumed in 2006 under a bilateral agreement intended to ensure that they were above board.

That agreement expires Sept. 1, and many adoption agency officials believe the Vietnam program will be suspended again, at least temporarily.

“I can’t see any possible way that this agreement is going to continue,” said Tad Kincaid of Orphans Overseas in Portland, Ore. “There’s certainly going to be a lapse.”

The American Embassy report is based on a review of hundreds of adoptions since they resumed in Vietnam in 2006.

Already, the embassy’s concerns have left scores of Vietnamese adoptions in limbo, as American families wait for the American government’s permission to bring the babies home.

Many people involved in Vietnamese adoptions strictly adhere to adoption laws, American officials say.

But others have been flooding the system with cash to get babies for American parents, who pay up to $25,000 for an adoption.

With 42 American adoption agencies licensed in Vietnam, the competition for babies is intense.

Some agencies have been paying orphanage directors $10,000 per referral, the report says, and some have taken orphanage directors on shopping sprees and junkets to the United States in return for a steady flow of babies.

Source: The New York Times

Vietnam jails three pro-democracy activists

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Vietnam has handed jail terms of up to five years to three pro-democracy activists who were arrested before a 2006 economic summit, state media reported yesterday.
Pham Ba Hai, 40 — a member of the outlawed Bloc 8406 group that has called for multi-party democracy — was jailed for five years by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court for “spreading propaganda against the state.”
Nguyen Ngoc Quang, 44, was given three years and Vu Hoang Hai, 43, was sentenced to two years on similar charges on Friday, the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
Hai, a businessman who previously worked in India but was later barred from leaving Vietnam, and Quang, who owned an interior design firm, were first questioned by police in August and then arrested in September 2006.
The VNA report and state-controlled press charged that the three men had posted online documents “that distorted history, attacked administrations and tarnished the party and state officials and incited people to protest.”
The three will be kept under police surveillance for two years after their release, the court ruled.
Bloc 8406 is named after the day, April 8, 2006, when its founding members — including religious leaders, academics and young professional — posted a manifesto online calling for democratisation and civil liberties.
The movement was launched during a five-yearly congress of the ruling Communist Party, and several months ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 2006, an event that threw a spotlight on economically booming Vietnam.
Human rights groups have since pointed to a spate of political arrests and trials following the APEC meeting of world leaders, charging that the prestige event emboldened Hanoi to crack down on peaceful dissent at home.
In a separate incident Friday on the outskirts of Hanoi, several hundred farmers publicly denounced another man, Le Thanh Tung, for having joined the Bloc 8406 movement, the police newspaper An Ninh Thu Do reported.
Tung was criticised for his activism and for buying funeral wreaths in February for late pro-democracy activist Hoang Minh Chinh on behalf of overseas-based “reactionary organisations” including US-based Viet Tan.

Source: Macau Daily Times