The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday ruled to temporarily detain three women in Prey Sar prison for their involvement in a case in which they acted as surrogate mothers and delivered their children to Chinese nationals in Vietnam.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking Department and juvenile protection police officers sent 32-year-old Seng Chanda, Phuon Sinuon, 32 and Sat Saruon, 31, to court after they were arrested in Vietnam.
They are all residents of Ang Snuol district’s Tuol Pich commune in Kandal province.
The women have been charged with two criminal offences and face more than 20 years in prison if found guilty, said Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin.
“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge decided to temporarily detain the three at Correctional Centre 2 under Article 16 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation and Article 332 of the Criminal Code."
“We charged them with trafficking transnational persons and [acting as an] intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman,” Rin told The Post.
According to Article 332 of the Criminal Code, acting as an intermediary for monetary gain between a person or a couple desiring to adopt a child and a woman agreeing to bear the child with the intent to give up the child is punishable by imprisonment from one to six months and a fine from 100,000 to one million riel ($25 to $245).
Article 16 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation stipulates that the act of selling, buying or exchanging a person for cross-border transfer to outside of Cambodia is punishable by imprisonment of seven to 20 years.
Chhiv Phally, the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department director, said the three women were detained by Vietnamese police and returned to Cambodia after they illegally crossed into the country to deliver their children to Chinese nationals for $8,000 per child.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager with human rights group Licadho, told The Post on Thursday that he was saddened by the court’s decision to charge the three, saying the factors leading people to commit the crime are a poor standard of living and a lack of awareness of the law.
He said women who are forced to become surrogate mothers because they are so desperate for money should be seen as victims. Sam Ath also requested the court to reconsider the charges and to find the brokers behind the surrogacy agreement.
“What is important is that the government should make an announcement broadly over the issue and should publicly discuss [illegal surrogacy] so that people understand it,” he said.
Cambodia has cracked down on 43 cases of illegal surrogacy, with most of the babies sent to China.