Two people have been arrested in Cambodia for allegedly “trafficking organs” during a year-long operation involving at least 10 victims and frequent trips to India, officials said yesterday.
Keo Thea, director of the Anti-Trafficking Office in Phnom Penh, said the two suspects, Lach Hong Meng, 34, and Heng Lat, 38, were arrested on Wednesday after acting as brokers and offering victims $5,800 for their kidneys.
One by one, the victims were flown to India with a Cambodian patient and the transplant was performed. Documents were faked to make the donors look like relatives of the kidney recipients, Thea said. Thea said Hong Meng was considered the mastermind of the operation, while Lat was employed to seek out and convince donors.
The pair will be sent to court today and face charges related to organ trafficking and the possession of fraudulent documents.
Last July, the National Assembly adopted a law banning commercial organ transplants in a bid to curb trafficking in the so-called “red market” trade.
Chy Tith, chief of the hemodialysis department at Preah Ket Mealea Hospital, said people with only one remaining kidney needed to be “very, very careful”.
“When they fall ill, for example, with high blood pressure or urinary problems, it’s very hard for one kidney to absorb all the [toxins in the blood],” Tith said.
Chandu Bhandari, regional adviser at the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, said while he couldn’t comment specifically on this case, it was “important to note that organ trafficking and human trafficking for organ removal are different [but] frequently confused”.
He said trafficking humans for organ removal could occur when people were forced or deceived to give up an organ, when they agree to sell an organ but were cheated or when people had organs removed without their knowledge.
In 2015, organ traffickers got between 10 and 15 years in jail for persuading at least three Cham men to sell kidneys.