Fifteen people were arrested in Cambodia on 8 November 2018 on suspicion of surrogacy. The group comprised eleven pregnant women, two men and two cooks. Surrogacy has been illegal in Cambodia since October 2016 (see Cambodia follows in the footsteps of India and Thailand to ban surrogacy). Surrogacy rings are raided on a regular basis (see Cambodia – policy raid child surrogacy ring involving 33 surrogate mothers).
“We are very concerned about surrogacy. We are currently discovering more and more surrogacy rings and who knows how many remain?” laments Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State to the Cambodian Ministry of the Interior and chair of the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking.
Accused of human trafficking, these individuals could face prison sentences of up to twenty years. Chou Bun Eng points out that, in fact, surrogacy is “perceived as the purchase or sale of children and therefore constitutes a human trafficking offence”.
However, Chak Sopheap, from the Cambodian Human Rights Centre, defends these women who are generally very poor and uneducated, and from whom the illegal nature of the situation has been hidden. He is calling on the Cambodian government to target IVF clinics and recruitment agencies rather than the surrogate mothers themselves: “They are victims and should not be punished”.