JAKARTA, Indonesia – Steps being taken to protect children in four countries hard hit by the south Asian tsunami:
INDONESIA — The government is temporarily barring anyone from taking children in Aceh province out of the country. Officials also ordered provincial commanders, especially in and near Aceh, to be alert to possible child trafficking. Police officers in some Aceh refugee camps were urging people to be skeptical of anyone claiming to be from a charitable group aiding children or saying they are related to an orphan.
INDIA — The country will not relax its strict rules on adoption, despite the thousands orphaned by the tsunami. Shanta Nair, an official in Tamil Nadu state, where most tsunami deaths in India occurred, said the government has taken steps to prevent criminal trafficking of orphans and that all the children have been accounted for. The Tamil Nadu government is building an orphanage and will open a bank account in each child's name with a deposit of $11,000.
THAILAND — The country has long been criticized for not doing enough to prevent human trafficking. While laws are on the books, officials were sometimes ignorant of regulations aimed at protecting children and adults. No special measures have been taken since the tsunami, but Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said the government was working with hospitals to prevent child trafficking gangs from taking advantage of the situation.
SRI LANKA — Like neighboring India, Sri Lanka has strict rules on adoption and the process can take months. Foreign adoptive parents are not desired. In some areas, people who lost their families reportedly have taken orphans from refugee centers to raise as their own. Ted Chaiban, UNICEF representative in Sri Lanka, said his agency was working with local groups to set up a program to match orphans with grieving parents.