PHNOM PENH —
Nine suspects accused of kidney trafficking were released from custody Monday, with the courts citing a lack of evidence to hold them.
All nine were arrested Saturday and accused of trafficking organs from the Preah Ket Mealea Military Hospital.
Prum Santhor, deputy chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Police, said the suspects had been released after questioning, as authorities determined they had mutual consent from organ donors.
“First, it was for research and development, and second, it was for humanitarian purposes,” he said, explaining the release. The donors “were not forced,” he said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labor program for the Community Legal Education Center, was critical of such logic. The donors were all impoverished, he said, and the trafficking of organs often involves high-ranking officials who appear immune to prosecution. A kidney sells for up to $40,000 on the black market.
Suspects included general Ly Sovan, the director of the hospital, and general Keo Davuth, deputy director, as well as Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian doctors and “donors.”
“They told us that they donated the kidneys because of their poor living conditions,” Prum Santhor said. “We don’t know what the other side gave them back in return.”
At least 10 donors have given up kidneys for donation at the hospital, he said.