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Family torn after organ arrests

A family feud at the centre of Cambodia’s first major organ-trafficking case has left the victims blaming their relatives for conning them out of their kidneys and pocketing most of the money, while those closest to the two suspects arrested on Tuesday say the allegations are an act of revenge.

A man shows the scare left on his side in Russey Keo district
A man shows the scare left on his side in Russey Keo district yesterday after he had a kidney removed to be sold. Heng Chivoan

Mot Hiriphin, 26, said that his family had been crippled by debt after taking out hefty bank loans to fund life-saving heart surgery for his dying father.

The operation was unsuccessful, and last year, Hiriphin and his family faced having their home repossessed.

“We were suffering, because we had no money,” Hiriphin said yesterday.

As the eldest son, Hiriphin felt duty-bound to provide for his family. So when his cousin, Yem Asi Sah, told him he could pay off the debt by selling a kidney he asked few questions.

Hiriphin said he travelled to Thailand last June with a wealthy Cambodian businessman from Poipet province who was in need of a transplant.

Asi Sah provided him with fake documents and Hiriphin was taken to a legitimate hospital for the operation, he said.

After the trip, Hiriphin received $4,200, but later learned that the businessman had paid far more for the kidney.

“I found out that he paid $12,000 for the kidney, so why did I get so little?” he said.

It was not until Asi Sah stole Hiriphin’s younger brother’s motorbike – as collateral for his own kidney operation – that the trafficking ring came to the authorities’ attention and she and her 40-year-old stepfather Yem Phalla were arrested.

Both have been charged, said municipal court deputy prosecutor Kong Sam Sareth.

Sitting outside his home in Chroy Changva commune yesterday, Hiriphin said he regretted the procedure. But in the house next door, his relatives told a very different story.

Nhem Rohany, 22, said she had no idea her stepfather and sister were selling organs until they were arrested.

“[But] if my relatives sold their kidneys, they did it because they wanted to.”

Rohany’s mother, Pen Phatimas, agreed. “It was their choice,” she said. “My husband is not involved. He did not know about my daughter’s [business],” she added.

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