Illustrative image (File photo: AFP)

Phnom Penh (VNA) –
Cambodia has discovered 33 pregnant Cambodian women who were carrying babies on behalf of Chinese clients during a raid on an illegal commercial surrogacy operation, police said on June 23.

Five people, including a Chinese, were arrested, according to director of Phnom Penh’s anti-trafficking office Keo Thea, adding that some had given birth while some remain pregnant.

Each woman was promised 10,000 USD for the service, he said.

Cambodian women will be taken to a social caring center while the five suspects will appear in court on June 24.

China has loosened its policy of having only one child per family in two recent years. The need for reproductive health services in the country is rising as it is estimated that 90 million women are allowed to have one more baby. Since surrogacy is illegal in China, many financially capable families find it abroad for children.

Southeast Asian countries have long been popular addresses for Chinese couples to find and hire women bearing children for them because the medical care services are relatively cheap while many poor women need additional incomes and the legal regulations are not really strict. 

However, officials from regional nations have begun to step up campaigns to stop this practice. 

In Cambodia, commercial surrogacy services were banned from 2016 after neighboring Thailand forbade it a year earlier. -VNA