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Police question specialist Tammy Davis-Charles (left) earlier this month in Phnom Penh after she was arrested for engaging in surrogacy. National Police
Police question specialist Tammy Davis-Charles (left) earlier this month in Phnom Penh after she was arrested for engaging in surrogacy. National Police

Ministry seeking to block surrogate children’s papers

Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively working to identify cases of commercial surrogacy – and has already refused to authorise some birth certificates – in an effort to prevent foreign intended parents from leaving the Kingdom with children delivered by a surrogate mother, officials said this week.

“We consider [surrogacy] as a new kind of human trafficking and our ministry is in position to prevent such crime,” Samnang Tho, director of the ministry’s Legal and Consular Department, said in an email.

In order for intended parents to leave Cambodia with a child born to a surrogate, the parents must obtain a birth certificate from a local official and have it translated and legalised by the ministry, Tho explained. But the ministry is now refusing to legalise birth certificates when it’s suspected that the child was born through surrogacy.

“If the child was born from a Cambodian and a foreigner, we will check their married [sic] certificate and the passport and visa of the foreigner,” Tho said.

The ministry has refused to legalise about 10 birth certificates thus far, and is working with foreign embassies, particularly the Chinese Embassy, to flag these cases, he added.

Commercial surrogacy came to Cambodia about a year ago after it was banned in countries like Thailand, India and Nepal. The industry is not explicitly illegal in Cambodia, but the government recently said it’s drafting a law to ban the practice.

On Friday, anti-trafficking police arrested an Australian national and two Cambodians in the Kingdom’s first-ever arrests for surrogacy. The clampdown has left intended parents in limbo, industry insiders say.

Josh Lam, founder of Thailand-based New Genetics Global, said his agency is awaiting further announcements from Cambodian authorities before advising intended parents on how to proceed.

Sam Everingham, global director of the Australia-based company Families Through Surrogacy, said Australian intended parents met with their embassy on Monday to discuss solutions, but were instructed not to discuss the issue publicly.

One representative of a Thailand-based surrogacy agency, who asked to remain anonymous, said intended parents feel “under threat”.

The Australian Embassy is not cooperating with the Foreign Ministry to flag cases of surrogacy, Tho confirmed.

Meanwhile, some industry insiders took issue with the government’s characterisation of surrogacy as human trafficking, calling attention to the genetic link between the child and intended parent.

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