Thursday, 10 March 2011 22:31 Mom Kunthear and James O’Toole
Cambodian officials say they are still investigating whether an illegal baby selling ring – broken up in Thailand last month amid allegations of rape and human trafficking – is also operating in Cambodia.
Last month, police in Bangkok arrested several people accused of working for a Taiwanese-run business in which women were offered up as surrogate mothers for wealthy couples in Taiwan and elsewhere.
Accounts from the 15 Vietnamese women rescued from the firm indicated that they had been held against their will after being trafficked from Vietnam, and that the organisation is also operating in Cambodia, the Bangkok Post reported.
A message on what is apparently the firm’s website, meanwhile, says it has “reception offices in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia” and lists a pair of local phone numbers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said police had begun investigating the case after reading about the arrests in Thailand, and that multiple ministries and government offices were collaborating.
“We are investigating this case and we don’t yet have a result at this point,” he said.
“We cannot work alone on cases that are connected to human trafficking, so we have to cooperate with other ministries on this case.”
A man who answered a call to a local phone number listed on the website of the firm, known as Baby 101, said today “I don’t know what you’re talking”, before hanging up.
Follow-up calls were not answered.
San Arun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said today that her ministry was cooperating with the Ministry of Interior on the case, though she did not have further details of the investigation.
On the Baby 101 website, photos of 40 different women available for surrogacy appear along with numbered codes.
The fee for the entire surrogacy process is listed at US$32,000.
An unknown number of company staff were being held in Bangkok pending charges including human trafficking and money laundering.
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said today that Thai authorities had been in contact with Vietnam in relation to the case, though he said he was unaware of any collaboration with Cambodian officials to date.
“I think we are aware that the company has offices in Cambodia, and that the company itself is a Taiwanese company,” he said.
“As the investigation proceeds, there of course is a possibility that we will have to coordinate with other countries involved.”