Monday 15 December 2003

Thai babies selling well in Malaysia

Newborns smuggled for childless couples

By Sirikul Bunnag

Closer cooperation between the government and Kuala Lumpur is needed to end the trafficking of children across the southern border, the chief inspector of Padang Besar checkpoint has warned.
Although the trafficking of children across the border had been ongoing for decades, current prevention and deterrence measures were half-hearted, said Wanchai Kusum at a seminar organised by the Anti-Human Trafficking Data Bank project.
He said police could no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the problem, demanding swift action.
"Human rights and dignity are at stake,'' he said.
Pol Lt-Col Wanchai called on the government to collaborate with Malaysia in introducing strict counter measures.
He suggested a joint agency be established to relay and exchange information on missing children to immigration police.
Project chief Sombat Boonngam-anong said the demand for trafficked children across the southern border stemmed from a Malaysian law, under which the assets of childless couples were seized by the government upon their death.
As a result, many Malaysian couples bought babies from traffickers and raised them as adopted children, he said.
Wassana Kaewnopparat, of the Child Welfare Protection Foundation, said many child-trafficking rings employed brokers who visited hospitals to prey on women with unwanted pregnancies.
Brokers often persuaded mothers to give up their newborns by saying they would be put up for adoption by "rich couples," Ms Wassana said.
Some brokers paid up to 5,000 baht for newborns, others simply stole babies from their mothers, she said.
Brokers found guilty of stealing babies served an average of only two years in prison, while traffickers were rarely convicted, Ms Wassana said.
She called for legal amendments to address the situation, questioning why the government did not consider child trafficking to be as grave a problem as the drugs trade.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"