Cambodia has suspended marriages between foreigners and Cambodians amid concerns over an explosion in the number of brokered unions involving poor, uneducated women, an official said Thursday.
The move follows an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) report highlighting the plight of an increasing number of Cambodian brides migrating to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who make large profits.
Some 1,759 marriage visas were issued by South Korea in 2007, up from just 72 in 2004, the report said.
While no systematic exploitation was uncovered, several cases of abuse did raise a red flag with the government, said You Ay, secretary of state with the Women's Affairs Ministry.
"Seven women have returned from South Korea because they could not stand what happened to them there," You Ay told AFP.
"The government has temporarily suspended all (paperwork) for Cambodia women to marry foreigners," she said.
You Ay said the ban, which was approved last week, would be lifted after the government developed a legal framework to address mixed marriages.
"This suspension is to prevent human trafficking through marriage," she said, adding that while the brides often receive as little as 1,000 US dollars, agencies can make tens of thousands of dollars on each marriage.
"Cambodia is working to strengthen the laws on marriage," You Ay said.
IOM project coordinator John McGeoghan said that while the report targeted marriages between Cambodians and South Koreans, the potential for problems exists globally and that brokered unions needed to be better regulated.
Three South Korean marriage agencies have been closed down in Cambodia pending the government's decision on marriages to foreigners.
The South Korean embassy in Cambodia earlier this week halted issuing residency visas to Cambodian women wishing to marry Korean men.