Visiting U.N. envoy Rhona Smith on Tuesday offered to help Cambodia draft its first laws on surrogacy, a ministry spokesman said.
The special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, who arrived on Monday for a 10-day visit, met with Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to discuss a range of issues—the punishments for those who commit violence against women and children, finding alternatives to provisional detention and making the courts more independent.
Chin Malin, a ministry spokesman, said Ms. Smith welcomed Cambodia’s work on developing laws around mothers bearing children for other couples, particularly from abroad, and offered to help.
Ms. Smith “will help organize the law to regulate surrogacy,” Mr. Malin said.
The ministry has been working with Australian officials since July on investigating ways to regulate a developing trade. More than 50 surrogacy brokers are already advertising services in Cambodia.
Risks of unregulated surrogacy include unscrupulous brokers and couples from abroad abandoning babies born with disabilities.
Last year, Thailand banned commercial surrogacy to foreign and same-sex couples after an Australian couple was accused of leaving a baby boy with their Thai surrogate in 2014 after discovering the infant had Down syndrome.
Ms. Smith, speaking to reporters between meetings, did not elaborate on specific cases she had discussed with ministry officials.
In the afternoon, Ms. Smith met with Keo Remy, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee.
“We generally discussed the situation of human rights in Cambodia,” Ms. Smith said. “There are many concerns about the human rights situation in Cambodia, yes, which I’ve raised with different ministers at meetings during this mission on a number of diverse issues.”
Mr. Remy said he told Ms. Smith about the human rights situation in Colombia—the home of a rebel group that burned houses and raped women, Mr. Remy explained—and that in comparison Cambodia was “normalized” because Prime Minister Hun Sen had saved the country from Khmer Rouge chief Pol Pot.
In Colombia, a recent peace deal between the government and Marxist rebels was defeated in a referendum, Mr. Remy told Ms. Smith, because victims of the decadeslong civil war had voted “yes,” but those unaffected voted “no.”
Similarly, in Cambodia, foreigners who don’t suffer the country’s problems obstruct the government’s work, he said.
The popular perception of the referendum in Colombia is that many victims actually voted against the deal because they felt it would make too many concessions to the rebels.