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Cambodia surrogate mothers freed after vowing to keep babies

AP  |  Phnom Penh 

Thirty-two Cambodian women who were charged with for serving as surrogate mothers have been provisionally released from detention after agreeing to keep the babies rather than giving them up as originally planned, officials said Wednesday.

Bun Samkhan, a for the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking, said the women, who were charged in July with violating and laws, were released on bail in three groups, the last 17 on Wednesday.

A who works at the same agency, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly, said the women were released on humanitarian grounds.

He said they had committed crimes but their babies are innocent, and for that reason the committee requested that the court free them. They had been held at a police hospital.

Acting as an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman carries a penalty of one to six months in prison. The offense is punishable by seven to 15 years' imprisonment.

A Chinese man and four Cambodian women accused of managing the business were charged with the same offenses.

said her committee requested the release of the surrogate mothers so they could take care of their babies, with the condition that they keep the children.

"We have told them clearly that these babies belong to you, so you have to take care of them until they grow up, and not sell them," said. "And they agreed."

Cambodian women who have served as surrogates have said they were offered as much as USD10,000. The average annual household income in is about USD1,490, according to the It was not known how much the women in this group were paid.

passed a law specifically targeting in 2016 as the country was becoming a popular destination for foreign would-be parents seeking women to give birth to their children.

Developing countries are popular for because costs are much lower than in countries such as the and Australia, where can cost around USD150,000.

The surrogacy business boomed in after it was put under tight restrictions in neighbouring There also were crackdowns in and

After Cambodia's crackdown, the trade shifted to neighbouring

In July last year, a sentenced an Australian woman and two Cambodian associates to 1 1/2 years in prison for providing commercial The Australian woman was quietly freed earlier this year.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, December 05 2018. 19:06 IST