Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cambodia's racist marriage policy

New marriage laws introduced in Cambodia

Marriages between old men and young women are "inappropriate", Mr Koy Kuong, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, and foreign men who wish to marry nationals must earn a high salary to ensure that "Cambodian women can live a decent life" he continued. Foreigners who earn less than US$2,550 (Bt76,500) per month are also barred from wedding local women. It is interesting that it is a Foreign Ministry spokesman who makes these comments and not some home ministry official, given the policy only applies in Cambodia.

So, in a country where the International Labour Organisation says the per capita income is $321(Bt9,630) and in the countryside, where most workers come from, the average monthly income, for an entire household, is $40 a month and where the average salary for a Cambodian civil servant is $28 (Bt840) a month, for a Cambodian woman married to a foreign man to have a "decent life" the foreign man must have an annual income of $30,600 (Bt918,000) when the average Cambodian wage is about a tenth of this.

The official line is that this law will crack down on "sham marriages and human trafficking". Well excuse me if I say rot. Since this applies only to Cambodian soil, how can a marriage undertaken in Cambodia be a sham and how does trafficking come in to it if the couple want to live in Cambodia?

This is contrary to Cambodia's undertakings in the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW; October 17 1980 signature; October 15 1992 accession) and also international law. This is not a virtuous attempt to protect Cambodian women from exploitation. It is nothing more than a nasty racist policy that has been introduced by Hun Sen's government. Submitted by Fred Morrice Bangkok

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