The Phnom Penh Municipal Police are to send 15 people to court for their alleged involvement in a surrogacy case, said its anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau deputy chief Touch Sarein.
He said the 13 women and two men will be taken to court on Monday, following their arrest in the capital’s Sen Sok district on November 8.
“We [will] send them as soon as we finish preparing the documentation,” he said on Monday, adding that 11 of the detainees were pregnant women.
Sarein said his team needed time to carry out the interrogation process and couldn’t finish earlier due to the number of detainees. “We asked the court for a postponement in order to launch a thorough investigation,” he said.
No further details are available while the experts “determine the appropriate legal action”, he said.
Ministry of Interior secretary of state Chou Bun Eng said officials are still figuring out the mastermind in the case and that similar cases have happened before.
“[The perpetrators] will be charged according to the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.”
Bun Eng said that civil society organisations regard the pregnant women as “victims”. But she argued that the latter might be in collusion with the perpetrators.
“[Those women] have the intention to exchange their babies for money. If we ask any one of them, they are aware of it,” she said.
In June, the authorities detained several people in an alleged surrogacy ring, among whom were the mastermind and her accomplices, as well as 32 women who were offered a certain amount of money to have children for Chinese clients.
Those “surrogate mothers”, who were initially regarded as victims, were eventually charged with “The Act of Selling, Buying or Exchanging a Person for Cross-border Transfer” according to Article 16 of the human trafficking law.
The article stipulates that the act is punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years.
In late October, Bun Eng said the lawyer for the 32 women filed an appeal in court for their temporary release.
She added that the women wished to care for their newborns, and to prevent the babies from being handed to the clients.
Anti-human trafficking prosecutors claimed that the mothers were offered up to $10,000, paid in instalments – $500 every month during pregnancy and $300 each month post-delivery until they receive the entire agreed amount.