Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles, who has spent more than a year behind bars in Cambodian prison for her role in a landmark surrogacy case, was on Monday denied early release by Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court.
Appeal Court judges yesterday were not swayed by Davis-Charles’s plea to reduce her 18-month sentence in order to seek treatment for eye cancer.
Referring to a document from Davis-Charles’s doctor detailing her diagnosis, Appeal Court Judge Kim Danny said she already had a tumour removed from her eye, but her doctor noted the condition had recurred and required treatment.
Judge Danny made no mention of whether Davis-Charles would be able to receive treatment while serving time in Prey Sar prison. She also suggested that Davis-Charles had received a relatively “lenient” sentence, as the charges against her carried a maximum prison term of two years.
“We uphold the verdict of the court of first instance,” Judge Danny said. “We decide to continue to detain her.”
Visibly thinner than during her trial and wearing a blue jumpsuit, a tearful Davis-Charles declined to speak to The Post yesterday after leaving the courtroom.
Davis-Charles and her two Cambodian co-accused, nurse Samrith Chakriya and Commerce Ministry official Penh Rithy, were arrested in November 2016 following a snap ban on Cambodia’s flourishing commercial surrogacy industry.
In the vacuum of formal surrogacy laws, the trio was sentenced in August to 18 months in prison for obtaining falsified documents, such as birth certificates, and for acting as intermediaries between adoptive parents and pregnant women.
Davis-Charles has denied those charges in court, saying she merely acted as a nurse to treat surrogates in her care. She worked with 23 surrogate mothers who each received $10,000 after giving birth to children for Australian and American intended parents, who typically paid $50,000 for the whole process.
Davis-Charles has one month to file an appeal of the court’s decision to the Supreme Court. Chakriya and Rithy have not appealed their sentences.
The booming “rent-a-womb” industry was outlawed in the Kingdom following similar bans in Thailand and India, and has since put down roots in neighbouring countries, such as Laos.
A timeline of surrogacy laws in the Kingdom: