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PHNOM PENH: Cam­bodia has released 32 women who were detained while pregnant on charges of human trafficking for acting as surrogate mothers for Chinese couples, a government official said on Thursday.

The women, who were detained in July, were freed on bail this week after promising to raise the children themselves, said Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior.

“We requested [the court] to release them on probation under watch,” she said via the messaging app Telegram.

Police have said each woman was promised $10,000 for carrying a baby for Chinese clients. “We do not know yet who are the people who wanted the babies,” said Chou Bun Eng, adding the mothers became attached to the infants during their pregnancies and wanted to keep them.

“All have a commitment, because of love for the child developed in their wombs,” she said.

The women were discovered during police raids at two apartments in Phnom Penh in June. They were charged in July with cross-border human trafficking.

Five other Cambodians and a Chinese national were also charged for involvement in the surrogacy ring, police said.

Members of the Agape International Missions (AIM), a Christian anti-human trafficking charity, accompanied police on the raid, AIM said in a July statement.

The women were initially provided accommodation by AIM and given meals, medical care and counselling, the group said.

AIM said it continued to provide assistance after the women were arrested and transferred to a police hospital.

“We believe that with the necessary equipping and support these 32 families will become models of loving Christian families positively impacting the communities in which they live,” the group said in the statement.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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