Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Alleged surrogates arrested, charged



Alleged surrogates arrested, charged

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian women arrested for their alleged involvement in an illegal surrogacy business are pictured outside a Phnom Penh municipal court on June 25. TANG CHHIN Sothy/afp

Alleged surrogates arrested, charged

Thirty-two women were temporarily detained at a police hospital after being charged by the investigating judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday with involvement in a human trafficking and surrogacy brokering racket.

Head of the General Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior Sorn Keo said: “The 32 women were sent to 16 Usaphea Police Hospital.”

Meanwhile, five people who were arrested on suspicion of being the brokers in the case face 20 years in prison according to Article 16 of the Criminal Code.

On Thursday, the investigating judge held the 32 women temporarily at Prey Sar prison.

Ey Rin, the court’s administrative director, said that judge Kao Vandy, the deputy municipal court director, detained the 32 women on charges of attempting to sell, buy or exchange a person for cross-border transfer and acting as intermediaries between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman, based on Article 16 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, and Article 332 of the Criminal Code.

Article 332 states that an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman can face one to six months in prison.

On June 29, Vandy, investigating judge at the municipal court, issued an arrest warrant for Liu Qiang, 49, who is a Chinese national and suspected of acting as a surrogacy agency manager, and Svay Sinoch, known as Sy, 34.

Similarly issued with arrest warrants were Noeun Sreylang, 27 and Thai Pheap, 43, who are suspected of acting as managers, and Lem Sopheap, known as Sderng, 19, who is suspected of acting as the interpreter. Like the 32 women, they too were charged under the same Acts.

On June 28, Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged the Chinese national and four women with human trafficking and acting as intermediaries in surrogacy.

This was after anti-human trafficking police arrested the five in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on June 21 over the creation of an illegal surrogacy agency.

During the operation, police discovered the 32 pregnant women on the property. The women were believed to be intended surrogate mothers for Chinese adopters.

In May, the Interior Ministry postponed sending a draft surrogacy bill before the Council of Ministers for further study.

Ros Sopheap, the executive director of gender equality group Gender and Development Cambodia, said: “We cannot condone keeping these women in prison because they are victims.

“They are poor with few options and wouldn’t have known how surrogacy could affect their life and health and that it is wrong. They just do it [to make money], and $10,000 is a lot to them."

“They [couldn’t have] known that the activity is illegal because we do not have a law banning [it yet]. Where does it say that this act is illegal?”

Chou Bun Eng, deputy director of the permanent committee for anti-human trafficking, said it was the opinion of the court that the arrested women intended to hand over their children in exchange for money.

“They [intended to] exchange their children for money. What we prioritise as the victim is the baby inside the mother. To bear a child and then sell it is very inhumane,” he said.

“We need to take care of the mothers so that they can take care of the baby. This is the responsibility of the government. They will not be considered prisoners because they are pregnant. We are taking care of them well,” he said.

In 2015, Cambodia became a go-to destination for those seeking surrogacy after the practice was banned in Thailand, India and Nepal.

Last year, National Police worked with provincial and municipal prosecutors on 159 cases of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, with 203 people arrested. One hundred and thirteen people were arrested in 2016.

They included 20 foreigners from eight nationalities – three Vietnamese, two British, two Dutch, one Japanese and an American. Authorities rescued 345 babies last year.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants