Friday, February 22, 2008

Baby trafficking in Vietnam

Dear Sam,

This journey to adopt you continues to be a wild ride. What we thought would be a "quick and easy" first child while we wait out the long China wait (which was also supposed to be "quick and easy") has been neither quick nor easy.

Although we were initially mad that we weren't going to get you as quickly as we had wanted, we now focus more on hoping and praying (and doing everything we can) to make sure that if we do get a son from Vietnam that he is not trafficked in any way. Sadly, there are credible reports that exactly that is happening with both domestic and international adoption in Vietnam.

The good news is that the U.S. and Vietnamese governments seem to be cracking down on it. We applaud all those efforts, even if it means we must wait longer for you. Of course, now there is some talk that adoptions between the U.S. and Vietnam may stop by September. Our goal is now to not get caught in the middle of that. If we can bring you home before September, great. If not, who knows what will happen.

Meanwhile, we pray for children and birthparents like those in this article from a Vietnamese newspaper (where birthmothers are being paid $30 USD for their children, which are then sold for about $500 to $627 USD). Thankfully, our agency does not work in any of the provinces mentioned below. And we support the efforts of organizations like Ethica, who are working for more ethical adoptions worldwide.

The article from Thanh Nien Daily News (feb. 20, 2008) in Vietnam:




According to a investigation conducted by Thanh Nien reporters, Nguyen Thi Thuyen, who lives in Ung Hoa District’s Vien An Village of Ha Tay Province, has been manipulating and luring countless youngsters for nearly 14 years to not commit abortions and instead give birth to prized “human goods” to be purchased and traded widely.

“I’ll send your girlfriend to a place in Ha Dong City,” Thuyen told Thanh Nien reporters, who approached Thuyen as a couple wanting to put their newborn up for sale.

“Don’t worry. I’ll loan you about VND500,000 to VND600,000 every month until the girl gives birth and I’ll even take her to the hospital myself.”


Thuyen said the baby could be secretly sold to a Hanoi couple, as the husband became infertile after an accident.

“Since this couple cannot let their relatives know, when your girlfriend is about to give labor, I will set up the lawyer’s wife to stay next to her in the hospital. Your girlfriend must leave in secret upon giving birth so that this family can officially prepare paperwork for the baby,” Thuyen explained.

According to Thanh Nien sources, this network maintains five to six baby suppliers in the village of Vien An.


A female baby is usually purchased at around VND8 million while a male one is worth VND10 million.

Thuyen then resells the infant to another family, at a price of between VND20 million and VND25 million.

To boost the babies’ prices, Thuyen even advertises the infants’ real parents to the buyers, especially if the parents are educated and considered to be “good looking.” She moreover owns at least five residences located across Ha Tay Province where she houses over 10 young pregnant women.


Portrait of a baby trader
As Thuyen revealed several certificates signed by government officials and obtained by families who want to buy babies, it appeared that Thuyen has been colluding with local officials, doctors and nurses in hospitals to operate the network.


Formerly the principal of the village’s preschool, Thuyen currently works at the Ha Tay Center for Social Beneficiaries Caring, where her husband serves as the director.


One of the duties carried out by the center is to process adoption requests and prospective matches.


Thuyen’s husband had been previously suspended some time before November 2007 for tainting adoption procedures.


In her village, Thuyen possesses an air of authority that most residents fear.
According to a government official from the village who wants to remain anonymous, the trafficking network is renowned for its ability to simplify procedures and confidentiality.


After a child is sold, Thuyen usually never re-contacts either the adoptive family or the baby’s real mother.

Interviews with Vien An’s residents unearth the possibility that some babies sold by this network are being resold abroad.


In the past, several child kidnapping cases had occurred in the village.


Exploitation stories
The young pregnant women who sustain this network choose to sell their babies for various reasons.


Some formerly worked as prostitutes, other low-income factory workers or college students got pregnant unexpectedly.

After signing a contract, the girls often room in pairs requiring around VND500,000 to cover their living expenses.

After giving birth, the girls must repay the living expenses and hospital fees, thus gleaning little profit from their sold offsprings.


Some are even made to work during their pregnancy and must live in dilapidated rooms, like the one Thuyen showed Thanh Nien reporters.


A dark room hidden behind a food court located at 6A Highway, Yen Phuc Hamlet, Bien Giang village, Thanh Oai District, had served as a temporary home to two girls.


Spread out over an area of about seven square meters without any window, the room was formerly occupied by Hoang Thi Thuy, who had recently given birth and refused to discuss her situation.


Her sister, however, told Thanh Nien that some women’s children were taken away without payment.


“Thuyen usually inflates the girls’ expenses and cuts the amount of money they can receive afterwards,” Thuy’s sister said.


“Sometimes the girls receive nothing.”


Broad network
Tuyen, one of the network’s traffickers, said that Thuyen capitalizes on wide connections, which extend as far as Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ officials, to offer babies to foreign couples.


“We don’t earn that much by just focusing on the domestic couples,” Tuyen said. “Thuyen has signed contracts with thousand of students I can’t even count how many.”

Some mothers are too poor to keep their children, but refuse abortions in hope that their newborns would be able to enjoy a life they cannot personally offer.

“Thuyen told me that this child will be put into a center and I will receive VND7 million,” said a 23-year-old named Hai, whose boyfriend ran away after learning about her pregnancy.
“I accept the fact that I am not able to raise this child.”

Hanoi police arrests another infant trafficker
Nguyen Thi Thuyen’s network is just one of a series of baby trafficking networks that has been plaguing several provinces.

According to Thanh Nien sources, some net-works are selling babies to China through the border near Mong Cai Town in Quang Ninh Province.



After three baby traffickers were seized by Hanoi police on Monday while transporting two babies and a pregnant woman to a northern province bordering China, another suspect was arrested on Tuesday, announced senior Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Hung.


One of the detainees, 27-yearold Trinh Thi Nga, admitted guilt in receiving VND3 million by the leaders of a network to transport and sell babies at the border.


These networks usually approach young girls, mostly residing in the provinces of Ha Tay, Hoa Binh, Bac Lieu and Ho Chi Minh City, and offer to purchase babies at prices ranging from VND8 million to VND15 mil-lion.

Babies can be sold in China at a price of VND15 million per female baby, and between VND25 million to VND30 million per male baby, reported Thanh Nien sources.

According to lawyer Tran Hong Lan, an associate of Dan Tin Lawyer Office located in Ha Dong City of Ha Tay Province, Thuyen could be arrested on charges of profiting from selling babies, convincing females to sell newborns, and organizing a comprehensive trafficking network.
Reported by Thanh Nien staff

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rats!

Dear Sam and Sophie,

The first Chinese New Year after we finished our China dossier we had a big party. We thought it would be the first of many lunar new year's celebrations to come. The next two years we were too depressed about all the delays to celebrate. Every year I think, "Will our son or daughter be born in this year of the _____?"


Last year, during the special Year of the Golden Pig, we hoped that the extra luck would fall on us. No such luck: no referral. But now our Vietnam agency is telling us that they think there is a good chance we will complete our adoption before September 1, when there is the possibility that U.S. adoptions from Vietnam may cease. Our dossier has been moved to HCMC, where there is more possibility of a referral. We're taking this with a major grain of salt, but maybe our son was born in the Year of the Golden Pig, after all.

Meanwhile, most people are estimating that late February 2006 LIDs to China, like ours, may get referred before the end of 2008, so either way, there is a hopeful chance that we might have a child before the next lunar new year.

So ... even though it was 0 degrees with 30-below windchills, your Dad and I went to the Chinese New Year parade in Chicago's Chinatown this year. Believe it or not, there were lots of people there! Very hearty people, those Asians! It was a short parade (thank God) with a few dragons (see above photo).

This is us, dressed very warmly but still freezing our butts off! We met a nice guy named Will at the parade, and he directed us to Keng-Kee, a yummy restaurant where we were the only Caucasians. Most things on the menu had "intestine" in the name, but we opted for a mushroom dish, something with pork, and this rolled up noodle things that I really liked.

In other "Year of the Rat" news, this is a little knitted rat I made for our friends Dan and Linh, who had a baby girl (Gabriella) just days after the new year. I'll knit another one, just in case one of you is born this year. And I'll start searching for a knitted pig pattern, just in case we're going to get really lucky.