Though officials have yet to decide whether the country’s temporary ban on surrogate pregnancies will become official law, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Cambodian women on Tuesday to stay away from foreign surrogacy services to avoid becoming involved in criminal activity.
The prime minister slipped the comments into Tuesday’s speech at the annual meeting of the Cambodian National Council for Women, in which he also called for women to join police, monks and teachers in the six-month anti-drug campaign that began last month.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] appealed for our Cambodian women to participate in the anti-drug campaign and they must be cautious of foreign requests for surrogate pregnancies that can serve the interests of organic exchange, which is a big danger,” according to a post on Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the inter-ministerial committee tasked with drafting a law on surrogate pregnancies had yet to decide whether the practice should be regulated or banned outright.
The committee “has been debating the technicalities” of surrogate pregnancy arrangements, studying surrogacy laws from Thailand, Australia and the E.U. in order to make a decision that most appropriately fits Cambodian culture, Mr. Malin said.
“If we determine that it is legal, we need to make sure we do not incentivize human trafficking or exploitation,” he added.
The Health Ministry announced a temporary ban on surrogate pregnancy arrangements in November. Although a law on the practice is still being drafted, surrogacy brokers can be charged through existing laws penalizing those who act as an intermediary between a pregnant mother and an adoptive parent.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged two Cambodian nationals and an Australian nurse, Tammy Davis-Charles, in November for running an illegal surrogacy clinic in Phnom Penh. They are currently being held in Prey Sar prison awaiting trial.
The surrogate mothers and hopeful parents caught in the midst of surrogacy deals remain in a legal gray area. “In our existing codes, it is not yet determined whether the parents who hire women to carry babies…and surrogate mothers commit a crime or not,” Mr. Malin said.