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Cablegate: Outgoing French Adoptions Official Says Vietnam Is

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 001995

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR CA/OCS/CI, CA/OCS/ACS/EAP, CA/OCS/PRI,
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR CA/VO/F/P, EAP/BCLTV, AND L/EAP
BANGKOK FOR DHS/DD
HO CHI MINH CITY FOR CONS AND DHS OIC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KOCI CVIS CASC PREL VM
SUBJECT: OUTGOING FRENCH ADOPTIONS OFFICIAL SAYS VIETNAM IS
"STILL NOT READY."

REF: A) HANOI 1870, B) HANOI 1759, C) PREVIOUS, and D) 02
HANOI 0039

1. (SBU) Summary. Despite the precision in the French
adoption agreement with Vietnam, French adoptions are
encountering problems at the provincial levels. Significant
problems include demands for donations/fees in excess of
those set in the French agreement, unclear origins of
adoptive children (some of whom are rumored to have been
trafficked from China or Cambodia), and the withholding of
children pending the finalization of an MOU with the
Americans - because the Americans "will pay much more."
Central authorities reportedly are investigating such
concerns, but often lack the power to halt problems at the
provincial level. A French adoption official in Hanoi fears
that a premature agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam
could serve to exacerbate the problems on the ground. End
Summary.

DEPARTING FRENCH ADOPTIONS OFFICIAL
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) On July 25th, Consul spoke with the departing
official responsible for international adoptions at the
French Embassy, Pierrette Collomb. Collomb had been in this
position for three years, focusing solely on adoptions.
During her tenure, she served as the point-person throughout
the negotiation of the French agreement, processed adoptions
for French adoptive parents, maintained relations with
provincial and central government authorities, investigated
fraud, and visited orphanages regularly.

DESPITE TOUGH FRENCH AGREEMENT - PROBLEMS PERSIST
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (SBU) Collomb described the French agreement as having
tight controls. All French adoptive parents must make a USD
3000 `donation' to the GVN. This amount is established in
the French agreement and covers the expenses of the
orphanage as well as the processing expenses of the
provincial and central government. Any indication that an
amount larger than the set donation has been paid is grounds
for nullifying an adoption. In addition, the GOF also
retains the authority to approve all adoption agencies and
facilitators - called "associations" - that can operate in
Vietnam.

4. (SBU) Despite these strictures in the French agreement,
Collomb has encountered a number of problematic adoption
dossiers. The primary anomaly, encountered in many
dossiers, was requests for donations or payment of fees in
excess of the pre-determined US$3000. Another very
disturbing problem is the lack of clear history for the
children up for adoption in many provinces. Documents
demonstrating their biological parentage, those parent's
ties to the province, or those parent's intent to relinquish
the children are often unavailable or questionable. In
provinces where donations or documentation are consistent
problems, Collomb reports that she consistently sees the
same signatures (of provincial level officials) with
inordinate frequency. Collomb also believes rumors that
many children continue to be trafficked across provincial
borders (which is not allowed) and even transnational
borders. (Note: Rumors have abounded for years that many
children adopted from Vietnam were trafficked to Vietnam
from China or Cambodia. End note.)

5. (SBU) Finally, and of particular concern, Collomb was
eager to report that many provinces simply refuse to make
children available because "they are waiting for the
Americans who will pay much more."

6. She identified a non-comprehensive list of provinces
from which dossiers tend toward such anomalies and
hindrances - Ba Ria Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Ha Noi,
Ha Tay, Hai Phong, Bac Giang, and Thai Nguyen.


SPECIFICS
---------

7. (SBU) Collomb did cite some examples from specific
provinces. In Bac Giang, a province in which U.S. adoptive
parents previously encountered difficulties, the MOJ is
investigating claims that children are being smuggled from
China. Adoptions are currently halted in Bac Giang pending
the investigation. In Hanoi, adoption officials have been
the most blatant in declaring that they will wait for the
American agreement and the associated money. In Thai Nguyen
Province, Collomb has seen a disproportionate number of
girls being made available for adoption. She indicates that
most legitimate orphans are simply third or subsequent
children that families cannot afford, and thus are equally
likely to be boys. However, as boys are traditionally
expected to provide for their parents, if biological parents
are being `convinced' to give up children, it is easier to
convince them to give up girls than boys. This may also
indicate a possible link to trafficking in children from
China, where girls are frequently "given up" in preference
for a boy. Finally, she reported a case in Hai Phong in
which, when asked in the final stages of processing the
adoption, the mother did not consent (and said she had never
consented) to relinquish the child. Here Collomb said the
system worked and the adoption did not go through, but she
also expressed concern that this demonstrated that
provincial and orphanage officials are willing to indicate
that a child was available when the child was clearly not.

SUPPLY HAS SHRUNK
-----------------

8. (SBU) Significantly, Collomb noted that while orphanages
were crowded prior to the implementation of Decree 68
(described in ref D), when "fees" were paid freely, there
are few children in the orphanages now. She says that while
approximately 400 adoptions have gone through since the
French agreement was ratified, there are still 1000 cases of
adoptive parents to whom children have not been made
available. She feels that this is due to the relatively low
set donation - the market incentive is just not there.

GVN RESPONSE TO PROBLEMS
------------------------

9. (SBU) Collomb believes that the problems lie in the
provinces. She says that the central authorities are
generally quite good at pursuing cases when anomalies arise,
but that they simply don't have the power, means, or
authority to halt these inaccuracies and abuses. The
central authorities investigate many cases and questionable
results often result in nullification of the adoption, but
some cases do go through. Collomb indicated that the MOJ
sent letters to provinces that were particularly problematic
(she did not indicate which provinces), and those provinces
now simply refuse to work with French adoptive parents.

10. (SBU) Collomb did applaud the GVN's efforts to reduce
abuse of international adoptions through Decree 68 and the
establishment of new authorities and procedures. She feels
that the GVN has moved far forward in the time she was here.
Unfortunately, her general conclusion is that despite the
GVN's progress and good intentions, the legal systems are
not in place, the central authorities do not have enough
power, and "Vietnam is just not ready." Likely in reference
to the American dollars which provincial level official
associate with American adoptions, she added: "An American
agreement will only exacerbate the problems we are
encountering. When Vietnam is ready to deal with these
problems, it will be ready to join the Hague."

COMMENT
-------

11. (SBU) The central authorities' inability to enforce
policies at the provincial levels is endemic in Vietnam.
Recent examples include BTA implementation and treatment of
ethnic minorities. In addition, it bears mentioning that
the central authorities related to international adoption
are in flux as reported in refs A and B. The future
reaction of these as yet unnamed officials to similar
anomalies cannot be predicted.

12. (SBU) While the views reported in this cable are only
one official's views, that official has worked on this issue
intensively for three years. In addition, Collomb's views
are simply further corroboration of the findings uncovered
and reported by DHS/HCMC over the past three years. It was
DHS/HCMC's findings that spurred the GVN to pass Decree 68.
The potential for such problems to arise should be kept in
mind as we continue to work for progress on seeking a new
arrangement with Vietnam to allow international adoptions
with the United States.
PORTER

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