"But there is at present no legislation that could make Sotheavy’s relationship with Virak legally binding: with the exception of a handful of placements arranged overwhelmingly by expats in the civil courts using private lawyers, cash and legal loopholes, Cambodia does not have the capacity to process domestic adoption placements between non-relatives.
Speaking last week at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Oum Sophanara, director of the Child Welfare Department, said that he had lists of adoptable children, and families looking to be matched, but he could do nothing with them.
“I don’t know how to proceed when we complete the children’s documentation,” he said.
“How can I proceed if I don’t know if the court will proceed with my documents or not?”
The situation at the Ministry of Justice – which must first rule to clarify the process if it is to be implemented – is unclear.
According to Sophanara, the ministry is currently working on a “guideline” that will provide a strong enough legal basis to make domestic adoption possible.
But UNICEF, which is consulting on the guideline (which it terms an “explanatory note”) remains doubtful as to its sturdiness."