Vietnam adoptions banned for Americans

Go Vap Orphanage in southern Vietnam. Photo: Kerrilee Barrett

Claims that babies were being unlawfully removed from their natural mothers and sold to agencies in Vietnam have caused a ban on all Vietnamese adoptions to the US from July.

Leaked by The Associated Press last Thursday, the US Embassy document cited cases of fraud, corruption and baby-selling in the Vietnamese adoption system. Days later, the Vietnamese authorities announced that it would be stopping all adoptions to the US from July onwards. The United States has been a major adoptive country, having relocated around 1,200 Vietnamese children in the past 18 months.

“People are sent out to try to find pregnant women in villages”

Sam works for a humanitarian aid NGO that offers services and aid to children in need in Vietnam. He prefers to remain anonymous in fear of persecution from the authorities.

Corruption is endemic in Vietnam and it comes to light primarily in the adoption industry because there’s a whole lot of money around there. Adoptions cost from 10 to 15 thousand dollars [€6,500 – €10,000] so government officials try to get themselves involved in the cash flow. If you’re an agency in Vietnam – there are 100 licensed – then you have to make arrangements with an orphanage to pay them a monthly contribution. It’s what amount this is and where the rest goes that is where the corruption comes in. Not much money goes to the children – that’s for sure.

Adoption agencies also make deals with hospitals. People are then sent out to try to find pregnant women in villages and convince them to come to that particular hospital. A strange thing is that you have to have been doing volunteering work for minimum two years in Vietnam before you apply to be an adoption agency. Then it takes a long time to process the application – without any “encouragement” your papers will just sit there. So when adoption was re-allowed in 2005 [it had been banned in 2003], I don’t know where 100 licensed agencies suddenly sprung up from in a year. Money must have changed hands somewhere. Bribes are the way you do business here. I can’t see the adoption system ever improving.

“We don’t want people to think we bought a baby”

Elaine, from the US, has been through the adoption process in Vietnam. Her son has been home for a month now. She prefers to remain anonymous.

When my husband was in Vietnam [an] embassy employee sat in the airport talking to him and playing with my new son, saying, “This little boy just has no idea how lucky he is to be getting out now. Not many more will get out to the United States.” He told Matt of the fraud and coercion they saw in adoptions from Vietnam. He told him, basically, what was released last week in the summary of irregularities.

When we started hearing rumours we also started asking our agency more questions. We asked about the viability of helping our son stay with his biological mother. Based on the way our agency operates, paperwork we have, and the information about the birth mother that was shared anecdotally with my husband while he was in Vietnam, we feel comfortable that our adoption was ethical. Now, however, since the media attention about suspected corruption in Vietnam adoptions, we find ourselves feeling hesitant to tell others that our son is from Vietnam. We don’t want people to think we bought a baby.

Vietnam: At least 14 arrests under the excuse of Olympic torch relay

01 May 2008

Peaceful protestors held despite being over 1,000 miles away from relay route

In yet another bitter twist in Vietnam’s pattern of repressing legitimate and peaceful dissent, the country’s authorities used the arrival of the Olympic flame to arrest at least 14 people – most of whom were over 1,000 miles away from the torch relay.

Amnesty International has serious concerns over their safety and is calling for their immediate release.

Amnesty International said:

The Vietnamese authorities must urgently investigate allegations of beatings against those detained, and ensure their safety and wellbeing.

As the Olympic Torch relay made its stop in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City on 29 April 2008, police arrested at least 12 demonstrators who had protested peacefully against Chinese policies. The majority of arrests took place in Hanoi, over 1,000 miles away from Ho Chi Minh City and the Olympic torch.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the ongoing campaign by the Vietnamese government to silence dissenting voices. Lawyers, trade unionists, religious leaders and Internet dissidents with links to emerging pro-democracy groups have been targeted since this crackdown began in 2006.

Earlier in April Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged the authorities to make the Olympic torch relay a success and ensure it would not ‘be affected by evil forces’ distorted information,’ according to state controlled media.

In the days leading up to the torch relay, at least three people were arrested, including Nguyen Hoang Hai, a journalist and blogger who had featured articles about protests against China’s international policies. Most of those arrested on the day of the torch relay had voiced criticism against China about an ongoing territory dispute with Vietnam over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, and about its policies in Tibet.


  • According to reports received by Amnesty International, Nguyen Xuan Nghia and another arrested person, Vu Hung, a teacher, were beaten by police. Vu Hung is among four who have since been released.
  • It remains unclear whether charges have been brought against any of those who remain in detention, such as writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Vu Anh Son, who are reportedly held in Kien An district, Hai Phong province.
  • In breach of international human rights law the Vietnamese penal code criminalises peaceful dissent. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the authorities to urgently reform provisions relating to national security and ensure they are either removed or brought into line with international law. The organisation reiterates its calls on the Vietnamese authorities to honour its international human rights obligations by releasing all prisoners of conscience.