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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Surrogacy exit plan still in works

Chou Bun Eng (centre) holds a meeting last month to discuss the implementation of surrogacy exit guidelines. Photo supplied
Chou Bun Eng (centre) holds a meeting last month to discuss the implementation of surrogacy exit guidelines. Photo supplied

Surrogacy exit plan still in works

An exit strategy for babies born to Cambodian surrogates is still being ironed out by government officials, a month after guidelines to facilitate their safe passage from the Kingdom were announced.

Seemingly adding yet another layer to what some intended parents have deemed an already-complicated bureaucratic process, Cambodian ministry officials met on Friday to discuss their “procedures” for processing applications.

The exit strategy was developed after a sudden crackdown on surrogacy, with a Health Ministry directive labelling the practice illegal in Cambodia.

Surrogacy agencies had flocked to the Kingdom after similar crackdowns in India, Nepal and Thailand, with many now moving into Laos. The government laid out a plan last month to allow babies already born via surrogacy to leave – a plan that involved arranging a DNA test, a court appearance, a birth certificate, a passport and trips to various ministries.

Chou Bun Eng, vice chair of the Committee for Counter Trafficking in Persons, yesterday said officials from the ministries of interior and foreign affairs would develop their own processes, which would then be discussed in two weeks to ensure their strategies were coherent.

Several parents have already whisked their children across borders without going through the Cambodian court system, which Bun Eng said was “illegal” and amounted to “human trafficking”. “We are trying to protect the interests of the babies,” she said. “Our Cambodian surrogate women are not smart, just let [the intended parents] do whatever they want. Foreign parents are the ones who created the problem and we are the ones who solve it.”

Sam Everingham, of Families Through Surrogacy in Australia, said a transitional agreement was urgently needed as Cambodian surrogates were giving birth every week, and that Thailand, India and Nepal had acted on this promptly.

“As Cambodia continues to debate this, newborns risk being left stranded or their parents resorting to desperate measures to take them home, once their surrogate has given up parental responsibility,” he said.

Bun Eng acknowledged the process was difficult, but chastised the impatience of parents.

“We told them to wait but they cannot wait. How urgent is it that they cannot wait for our procedures?” she said.

The legal exit strategy will be closed to foreign parents in January 2018, she said.

Additional reporting by Erin Handley

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