ANGELINA Jolie’s former right-hand man in Cambodia – who helped the desperate Hollywood star push through Maddox’s adoption by becoming his father – reveals why she chose her son out of the hundreds of orphaned babies in the country.
Maddox turned 20 on August 5 and the actress’ friend and ex-business associate, Sarath Mounh, couldn’t be prouder of the way he’s turned out.
Angelina’s former right-hand man in Cambodia explained why she chose to adopt son Maddox. Credit: www.thisischriswhite.com
Sarath Mounh said he’s ‘proud’ of how Maddox has turned out. Credit: Chris White
The star’s oldest son recently turned 20. Credit: Reuters
Jolie faced a red-tape headache with the adoption back in 2002 and turned to Mounh to help her out by acting as Maddox’s dad on his adoption court documents.
Maddox was also added to Mounh’s family records, which shows that Jolie’s son was his third child.
Having a Cambodian father cut through many of the legal problems Jolie faced as a foreigner, especially as there was a government crackdown on international adoptions due to baby trafficking.
Mounh says that he then signed a document for Jolie to adopt Maddox from him.
MOUNH SPEAKS OUT
Now he reveals why the 46-year-old wanted to adopt from Cambodia after falling in love with the place when she filmed Tomb Raider there in 2000.
But why did she specifically choose Maddox, when there were hundreds of babies up from adoption in the developing country?
‘There are a lot of children in the world that need good care, need a better life. By that time, she wanted to be a mother, but thought it was better to be a mother to some baby who desperately needs good care,’ Mounh tells Daily Mail.
‘That’s why she decided on Maddox than a biological baby. That’s what I heard from her, we talked about everything.
“He was clever, sharp, smart, a lovely kid, who smiled at people more than any of the other babies. I always remember his smiley face.
‘As far as I understand from her, when she visited the place [orphanage] and saw Maddox, he smiled at her and got up, instead of crying like all the other babies.
“He was smiling right at her, it touched her heart, that’s why she chose Maddox.”
Mounh has no regrets with personally helping out Angelina by becoming Maddox’s father.
They had become pals after Mounh’s non-profit worked alongside the Maddox Jolie Pitt Foundation on conservation issues.
“Baby trafficking was very bad at that time in Cambodia, a lot of legal issues needed to be covered and she didn’t want it to go wrong,” says Mounh.
‘My role as a friend and colleague, I was there to help with the legal issues and register Maddox as my adopted son, then I signed a legal document from her, for her to adopt Maddox from me. I don’t know why they wanted me to help, or how they got into that position.”
Now Mounh hopes that Maddox and Angelina can stay true to her word that Cambodia will always be a part of the star’s oldest son’s identity.
The whole family visited Cambodia for the premiere of her directorial debut First They Killed My Father in 2017, with Jolie saying: “We’ve been coming back and forth for 17 years, it feels like a second home to me. The children have close ties to the children here, many of them are their best friends. Maddox is happy to be back in his country.”
‘PROUD AND HAPPY’
Mounh adds: ‘Cambodian people, we were proud and happy for him growing up in such a high class life. Many others in the population don’t get that chance. We’d love him to go back and understand his culture.
‘She was planning to return as much as possible, it was going to be the second home for Maddox.
‘He grew up in a modern life, if he could make a contribution back to his own people, that would be very nice. If he could learn about his heritage and culture, how he came to be in the orphanage – a horrifying part to his early life.
“He could have turned out to be a street kid, a lot of them fall through the net and go out into drug addiction, glue sniffing. The orphanage system in Cambodia is not well managed, a lot of the kids are not protected, donor money only goes so far, and the government doesn’t do anything.
‘He is a lucky boy compared to many, many in Cambodia. It would be nice for him to come back and help the community.’
Recently, Maddox’s adoption has received widespread publicity after The Sun revealed that fellow Cambodian adoptee Elizabeth Jacobs was making a documentary to find out the truth about adoptions at that time in the late 90s/early 2000s, entitled The Stolen Children.
‘People ask me if I know if Maddox’s parents are still alive and I have no clue,” adds Mounh, a father-of-three, who now lives in Toronto.
His family was forced to flee the south East Asian country when the current prime minister Hun Sen banned the opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2017 and threatened to put its high-ranking members, such as Mounh, in jail.
‘Society is not much different since Maddox was adopted,” he says.
“But the political and diplomatic issues have got worse. I can never go back, unless the government change. If they are still in a dictatorship, I can’t go back at all. That’s not just me, a lot of opposition members are exiled right now.”
Angelina adopted Maddox in 2002. Credit: Chris White
Mounh maintained a close relationship with Jolie for years. Credit: www.thisischriswhite.com
Maddox’s adoption is one of many adoptions from Cambodia surrounded by controversy. Credit: www.thisischriswhite.com
The actress and her son have a close bond. Credit: Getty