The justice minister has called for a ban on commercial surrogacy, describing the transaction in which a Cambodian woman gives birth to the child of other parents as a form of “trading” that should be investigated by authorities.
Speaking on Wednesday at a presentation of the ministry’s new guidelines on domestic adoptions, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana told members of the government, NGOs and legal experts that thousands of foreigners were traveling to Cambodia and paying surrogates to carry their children.
“We need the law in order to prevent this kind of act of pregnancy because I perceive that this does not fulfill the needs of an individual, but I am afraid that they use this as a form of trading,” he said.
“We do not want to see such kinds of trading in our country,” he added.
Mr. Vong Vathana said he had done online research on surrogacy and parents seeking such arrangements, typically because they cannot have children on their own, and learned that “about 20,000 of them are coming to Cambodia and asking for Cambodian women to bear the pregnancy for them.”
“We also require some investigation from the police,” he said. “I wonder whether this really exists.”
Mr. Vong Vathana declined to comment further when approached after the meeting. However, ministry spokesman Chin Malin confirmed the minister’s position.
“What I can tell you is that, yes, of course, we need that law, the law on surrogacy to prevent the practice. Particularly for the promotion of women’s and children’s rights,” he said.
“So, this is the just an overall framework that we are working on, but for the detail, I recommend you talk to someone in charge of that,” he added, referring further questions to the ministry’s secretary of state, Chan Sotheavy, who could not be reached.
Industry experts say up to 50 surrogacy providers and brokers are operating in Cambodia, including those who moved their operations here in response to other governments in Asia imposing tighter controls or outright bans.
In August, India announced a plan to ban foreigners, same-sex couples and single parents from using surrogacy services, following the Nepali government’s ban in September and Thailand’s ban on commercial surrogacy last year.
Josh Lam, founder and chief executive of surrogacy provider New Genetics Global, who shifted his business from Thailand to Cambodia following the ban, said he encouraged lawmakers to enact legislation that protected the rights of those involved.
“They can do so by setting forth middle ground legislation to properly vet all intended parents, agencies and IVF clinics pursuing surrogacy,” he said in an email.
Australian Embassy officials in Phnom Penh have previously said Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised them that commercial surrogacy and commissioning commercial surrogacy were “prohibited” in the country.
However, the U.N. Population Fund’s representative to Cambodia, Marc Derveeuw, said the legality of the practice was still under discussion. “The government of Cambodia is working on putting in place a legislation to regulate surrogacy to protect women and children and prevent exploitation and abuse,” he said in an email on Wednesday.