The biological parents of babies born to Cambodian surrogates who are currently pregnant will be allowed to take their children home despite the practice being banned, the government has said.
The amnesty will be offered to families caught up in the surrogacy system since it was outlawed at the end of last year.
Surrogacy is not specifically covered by Cambodia’s Criminal Code, but cases have been caught up in provisions of the law on human trafficking.
Authorities are currently preparing a draft law to make surrogacy legal, but that has yet to come into effect.
Interior Ministry secretary of state Chou Bun Eng said biological parents already involved with Cambodian surrogates would be able to take their children home without facing punishment, providing they fill out the relevant legal documents.
However, only seven parents have so far applied to do the paperwork.
Ms Bun Eng spoke yesterday after a meeting led by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, saying officials had decided to make exceptions in cases where women were already pregnant.
Ms Bun Eng said the government did not want to punish the surrogate mothers, but officials would crack down on women involved if they continued travelling abroad to hand over children.
The Interior Ministry meeting was joined by diplomatic officials from 19 embassies with the intention of disseminating information on the regulations to parents from around the world.
“The government has set out its principles on allowing babies born from surrogacy to be taken out of the country when the biological parents complete the necessary paperwork.
“Only seven sets of parents have applied to fulfil the legal requirements needed to claim their children so far,” Ms Bun Eng said, adding that many others have attempted to evade the authorities and flee abroad.
She said most Cambodian surrogates who were currently pregnant were carrying babies for Australian, German, British, French, American and Chinese couples.
“We have received information that some surrogates are going abroad to hand over the children to their biological parents,” she said, warning the legal paperwork is necessary to make sure children do not fall prey to abuse or trafficking.
“Cambodia is committed to fighting human trafficking and exploitation and we will absolutely not allow it in the country.”
Ms Bun Eng said biological fathers must guarantee they can raise children born from surrogacy when they apply to fill out the legal paperwork.
“Biological parents must be brave enough to show up and fill out the documents,” she said.
Surrogacy become illegal in Cambodia when the practice was banned amid controversy and fears of exploitation in India, Nepal and Thailand.
Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles, who ran Fertility Solutions PGD, was arrested in November for surrogacy offences, along with a Cambodian nurse and a Commerce Ministry official.
They were charged over fraudulent documents and for acting as intermediaries between would-be parents and pregnant women.
The Women’s Affairs Ministry has been preparing a draft law to make surrogacy legal with protections for the women and babies.