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Burma: Cyclone Orphan Adoptions Must Follow Procedures

(July 2, 2008) Cyclone Nargis, which devastated a large region of Burma, created a number of orphans. The Burmese Department of Social Welfare (DSW) has stressed, however, that they can be adopted only through the proper legal procedures. The 1939 Act of Registration of Adopting Children is the relevant legislation and will be enforced. Officials are concerned with protecting the welfare of the orphans and of children who may have been separated from their parents; they state they are acting to protect the children from human trafficking, abuse, and forced labor. Children who were orphaned or separated from their families in the storm in the Averyarwady delta and in the capital city of Yangon are now being cared for in temporary orphanages and monasteries, while the DSW and non-governmental organizations attempt to collect data about them. Adoption applications will be considered once the situation has stabilized; applicants will need to show letters of recommendation from local authorities or from a monk, if the child was being cared for in a monastery. U Aung Tun Khine, a DSW spokesman, said, “[p]eople think they can adopt a child if they have the monk’s permission, but we’re afraid they might use the children as domestic or general workers.” Action will be taken against anyone suspected of using the orphans as labor. Adoption applications will not be approved without a background check on the history of the applicants. (Burma to Handle Adoption Applications Under Adopting Children Act of 1939, THE MYANMAR TIMES, June 8, 2008, Open Source Center No. SEP20080618035009.)