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Surrogacy exit rules released, with parents required to provide yearly updates

Interior Minister Sar Kheng presides over a meeting to disseminate guidelines on surrogate infant exit procedures yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied
Interior Minister Sar Kheng presides over a meeting to disseminate guidelines on surrogate infant exit procedures yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Surrogacy exit rules released, with parents required to provide yearly updates

Parents of children born to surrogate mothers in Cambodia will be required to provide the government with yearly updates of their child’s mental and physical development, according to new guidelines officially disseminated to embassies for the first time yesterday.

A total of 19 embassies met with Interior Minister Sar Kheng and other officials to receive a four-page list of guidelines, part of an “exit strategy” for babies born in a period of legal limbo.

As officials previously suggested, the guidelines will require parents to collect a series of documentation – including their permanent address, their living conditions, their income, their reasons for pursuing surrogacy, the family book of their surrogate, the baby’s birth certificate and evidence they have not committed a criminal offence in the past three years – and have them verified at their embassy.

At the same time, fathers claiming parentage must submit documents to the court and provide DNA evidence of their genetic link to the child.

The guidelines also require the parents to provide a contract saying they will provide the government with progress updates on the development of their children – both mentally and physically – once per year through their embassy in Cambodia.

Chou Bun Eng, permanent vice chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking, said the embassies needed to cooperate with the government, as they knew which of their citizens were attempting to leave the country with babies born via surrogate mothers.

“We need everyone to apply; until now we found that surrogate fathers do not come and apply yet,” Bun Eng said. “We found some bad experiences; some people just try to bring the child outside the country by other means. They have to pass through their own embassy.”

She said if parents tried to evade the Cambodian courts and legal guidelines, they could not necessarily be trusted to take care of the child. “We just to try to ensure the safety of the child and to avoid the trafficking or the smuggling of the child,” she said.

Several parents have left the country with their newborns via Vietnam or Singapore. One parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was “impossible to wait”.

“I chose Cambodia in the beginning because America was too expensive. I didn’t have the money to stay much longer than I already had to do,” he said.

“I couldn’t lose my job also to stay and wait until the guidelines were finalised.”

Sam Everingham of Families Through Surrogacy said it was “a relief to see that these guidelines have finally been circulated”.

“Surrogacy is a sensitive topic and should be well regulated, so Cambodia’s efforts here are welcome,” he said.

“The new guidelines may well add to the time and expense of the process, but one would hope that Cambodian courts would expedite these cases out of respect for the surrogate and newborn children.”

The guidelines, signed by Kheng on June 4, are an interim measure. After January 8 next year, parents and surrogates involved in the banned practice will face legal action.

To that end, the Ministry of Interior said it would strengthen border checkpoints to avoid babies being taking out of the country “illegally”, and would continue to investigate “suspicious” pregnancy cases, or any deception used to take newborns out of Cambodia.

Although a law on surrogacy is still being drafted, the Health Minister issued a sudden ban on the practice in October last year.

One month later, Cambodia launched a landmark “surrogacy” case against now-jailed Australian national Tammy Davis-Charles. A verdict in her case – in which she is charged not for surrogacy but for possessing false documents and acting as an intermediary between a pregnant woman and an adoptive parent – is expected next week.

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