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Cambodia arrests 11 more surrogates, as Australian nurse released

19 November 2018
Appeared in BioNews 976

A total of 18 people, including 11 pregnant women, arrested in Cambodia have been charged with offences relating to human trafficking for allegedly engaging in surrogacy for foreign couples. 

Cambodia banned surrogacy in 2016 (see BioNews 876), after neighbouring Thailand did the same for foreign nationals the year before. Human trafficking is punishable with seven to 15 years imprisonment by Cambodian law.

Sam Everingham, founder of the Australian non-profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy told the Guardian: 'It makes [the pregnant women] look like criminals, but they are victims. It is the agents operating in Cambodia outside the law who should be dealt with.'

In July, 32 pregnant surrogates were arrested (see BioNews 958). One of the women told the Union of Catholic Asian News agency that she had been chained to her bed on a maternity ward while giving birth and was sent back to detention within a week.

Chou Bun Eng, the vice chairman of Cambodia's National Committee of Anti-Human Trafficking, said she hopes to get the surrogates released on bail soon. 'They shouldn't be punished with the maximum sentence because the actual crime of trafficking has not even been committed yet.' 

Defence lawyers are now planning to submit documents to the court to prove that the women are willing to raise the babies themselves instead of having them adopted.

Meanwhile, Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles was secretly released from Cambodian prison in May. She was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in August 2017 for helping to source clients and falsify documents such as birth certificates for surrogate-born babies (see Bionews 912) in the country. Davis-Charles has previously denied the allegations, saying she only provided medical care to the pregnant women. 

Prior to working in Cambodia she operated a surrogacy clinic in Thailand before the practice became illegal in 2015. She has yet to comment on her release from Prey Sar prison. 

Australian nurse freed from Cambodian jail but 43 women arrested over surrogacy
Australian Associated Press / The Guardian |  14 November 2018
Cambodia accuses 11 pregnant women of breaking surrogacy law
Associated Press / Washington Post |  13 November 2018
Cambodian surrogacy mothers in hospital detention
UCA News |  2 November 2018
18 November 2019 - by Dr Lea Goetz 
The UN has called on Cambodia to repeal the criminalisation of surrogates...
10 December 2018 - by Dr Eleanor Lynam 
Thirty-two Cambodian women charged with human trafficking for acting as surrogates have been released on bail on the condition that they keep the children...
16 July 2018 - by Dr Melanie Krause 
At least 32 pregnant Cambodian women have been charged for involvement in human trafficking...
2 July 2018 - by Dr Sam Sherratt 
Police in Cambodia have discovered 33 pregnant women who were working as part of an illegal surrogacy operation in Phnom Penh...
7 August 2017 - by Jen Willows 
An Australian nurse has been given a prison sentence after being found guilty of running an illegal surrogacy service in Cambodia...
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