Ruling party lawmakers unanimously passed a law regulating how human cells, tissue and organs can be donated or used in the country during a session on Thursday at the National Assembly, with the CNRP continuing its boycott of parliament in protest of a legal assault against the opposition.
The impetus for the Law on the Regulation of Donation and Adaption of Human Cells, Tissues and Organs was the increasing vulnerability of low- and middle-income countries to organ trafficking, as well as increasing rates of diabetes requiring kidney transplants, according to a statement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Approved by the Council of Ministers on May 27, the law sets strict regulations and possible punishments concerning various uses of human cells, tissue and organs—which previously fell under Cambodia’s anti-human trafficking laws. It includes articles controlling the trade in organs, adaptation of cells and tissue for commercial use and advertisement of the sale of organs.
The 65 CPP lawmakers present on Thursday all voted in favor of the law.
During discussion on the Assembly floor before the vote, CPP lawmaker Lork Kheng stressed that given the average Cambodian’s limited medical knowledge, the onus must fall upon medical experts to fully explain the implications to volunteers before they donate organs.
“Like if we donate our kidneys, what will happen? And is there one kidney or are there two kidneys? Our people do not understand such technical things,” she said. “So the medical professionals at hospitals must explain to people again and again until they understand clearly and can volunteer accordingly.”
In recent years, there have been a number of cases concerning the coerced removal of kidneys.
In March 2015, a 29-year-old woman was sentenced to 15 years—reduced to seven on appeal—for coercing two family members and a neighbor to travel to Thailand to sell their kidneys. In August 2014, two Royal Cambodian Armed Forces generals and six staff at the Preah Ket Mealea military hospital in Phnom Penh were accused of operating a kidney trafficking ring out of the hospital, but the case was ultimately dropped.
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said that while opposition lawmakers would have likely supported the law, it was not without faults.
“I have found so many loopholes that will allow exploitation to exist,” he said, adding that the law was needed to control existing businesses that had previously operated without specific rules regulating their practice.
(Additional reporting by Peter Ford)