Fif­teen sur­ro­gate moth­ers re­leased fol­low­ing pledges

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Kong Meta

FIF­TEEN sur­ro­gate moth­ers – part of the 32 detained in July for agree­ing to carry ba­bies for Chi­nese nationals – have been freed, af­ter the Na­tional Com­mit­tee for Counter-Traf­fick­ing (NCCT) re­quested the Ph­nom Penh Mu­nic­i­pal Court to re­lease them on bail.

The women pledged, in writ­ing, to ra ise t heir ba­bies and not send t hem to t he in­tended par­ents.

One of­fi­cer who guarded the women at the 16 Us­aphea Po­lice Hospi­tal said as of Tues­day, 17 of them had been ad­mit­ted to the hospi­tal. 15, who de­liv­ered their ba­bies there, have been re­leased or are ex­pected to be freed this week.

One sur­ro­gate mother who gave birth be­hind bars three months ago said she was asked to write a writ­ten prom­ise upon her re­lease on Mon­day.

“In ex­change for our re­lease, we have to prom­ise that we will raise our ba­bies un­til they are 18 years old. [The au­thor­i­ties] are go­ing to mon­i­tor us . . . if the baby is [gone], I will be sent to Prey Sar prison.

“For me, I love my baby boy and I will raise him by my­self,” she said.

A hus­band of one of the moth­ers said he is look­ing for­ward to re­unit­ing with his wife.

“I have re­ally missed her,” he said, adding that he is “will­ing to bring his wife’s baby home”.

Upon their ar­rest in July, the sur­ro­gates were re­garded as vic­tims, but the women were even­tu­ally charged with “The Act of Sell­ing, Buy­ing or Ex­chang­ing a Per­son for Cross­bor­der Trans­fer” ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 16 of the Law on Sup- pres­sion of Hu­man Traf­fick­ing and Sex­ual Ex­ploita­tion.

The Ar­ti­cle stip­u­lates that the act is pun­ish­able by im­pris­on­ment of up to 20 years.

In late Oc­to­ber, their lawyer filed an ap­peal in court for their re­lease on bail.

The rea­son be­hind the ap­peal was that the women had wished to care for their new­borns, ac­cord­ing to the In­te­rior Min­istry Sec­re­tary of State Chou Bun Eng.

Ca­pac­ity build­ing NGO Si- laka’s Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Thida Khus ap­plauded the court’s de­ci­sion to re­lease the women.

The move, she said, would “pave the way for elab­o­rate re­search and in­ves­ti­ga­tion which may lead to the cre­ation of strong laws to pre­vent sim­i­lar cases from hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture”.

Ph­nom Penh Mu­nic­i­pal Court ad­min­is­tra­tion deputy chief Sous Vichyea Randy and Bun Eng, could not be reached for com­ments.

ELIAH LIL­LIS

A sur­ro­gate mother pic­tured in a Kam­pong Speu neigh­bour­hood in 2016. Fif­teen sur­ro­gate moth­ers, part of the 32 detained in July for their al­leged in­volve­ment in a sur­ro­gacy ring, have been freed on bail.

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