Thirty-three pregnant women, detained in a June Police raid on an illegal surrogacy agency in Cambodia, where surrogacy is illegal, have been charged with human trafficking, a court official said on Friday.

“The 33 women were charged on Wednesday with selling, buying or exchanging a person for cross-border transfer,’’ Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman, Ly Sophana, told media.

Report says if convicted, the women face a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years.

Surrogacy was outlawed in Cambodia in 2016 — the same year an Australian nurse and two Cambodian associates running a surrogacy business were arrested and later sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Sophana declined to provide further details, but local media reported that the women were sent to a Phnom Penh hospital for medical checkups.

After June’s Police raid at two Phnom Penh villas, Chinese national Liu Qiang and four Cambodians were arrested and charged for human trafficking for allegedly running an illegal commercial surrogacy agency.

Liu was reportedly the ringleader of the operation, which promised to pay the women 10,000 dollars each to carry babies that could be sent to people in China.

Chou Bun Eng, vice chair of the national committee to combat human trafficking, said that authorities had not yet determined the biological parents of the unborn children.

“The government would provide care for the women until the babies were born,’’ she said.

(dpa/NAN)

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