Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Breaking: Australian nurse and two Cambodians get 18 months in landmark surrogacy case

Breaking: Australian nurse and two Cambodians get 18 months in landmark surrogacy case

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Surrogacy suspects Samrith Chakriya (L) and Tammy Davis-Charles(R) are escorted outside after their bail appeal hearing in March in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Breaking: Australian nurse and two Cambodians get 18 months in landmark surrogacy case

Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles has been found guilty in Cambodia's landmark surrogacy trial. 

Davis-Charles and her two Cambodian co-accused – nurse Samrith Chakriya and commerce ministry official Penh Rithy – were sentenced to 18 months in prison for their roles in Cambodia's much-maligned surrogacy industry.

Davis-Charles was also ordered to pay a fine of 4 million riel, or about $1,000, while Chakriya and Rithy were each fined 2 million riel, or $500. 

The shock verdict from Phnom Penh Municipal Judge Sor Lina comes in the absence of a law on surrogacy, which the government is still drafting. 

The three were charged with being intermediaries between a pregnant woman and an adoptive parent, and fraudulently obtaining documents, such as birth certificates.

Davis-Charles founded Fertility Solutions PGD and operated out of Thailand until a crackdown on the controversial industry following the 2014 “Baby Gammy” case forced her and other surrogacy agents into neighbouring Cambodia.

Defendants in Cambodia's landmark surrogacy case at Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier today.
Defendants in Cambodia's landmark surrogacy case at Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier today.

The industry flourished but was shrouded in secrecy, with parents desperate for their own biological children paying around $50,000 for the process, with around $10,000 going to Cambodian surrogate mothers, many of whom live in poverty.

The Ministry of Health issued a snap ban on the practice in October last year. Davis-Charles, Chakriya and Rithy were arrested just weeks later.

Davis-Charles claimed to have tended to surrogates in her capacity as a nurse, paid them and signed their contracts with intended parents as a witness, but she denied she recruited surrogates or falsified documents.

She assisted 23 Cambodian surrogates during their pregnancies, with 18 of those carrying children for Australians.

In the final day of their hearing last month, Davis-Charles and Chakriya made tearful pleas for their release. Davis-Charles said she hadn’t seen her young twin boys – who were born through surrogacy in Thailand – for the eight months of her incarceration. She also said she was suffering in prison with cancer in her left eye. 

Chakriya previously told the Post she had no idea her work as a nurse and translator for Davis-Charles could lead to her arrest, and begged to be reunited with her now one-year-old daughter, who was just a few months old at the time of her arrest.

Following the ban, officials earlier this year announced guidelines for parents to take children born through surrogacy out of the country, which involve submitting paperwork, the involvement of Cambodian courts and a DNA test. The guidelines were officially given to foreign embassies last week, and require parents to provide the Cambodian government with yearly updates on their child’s physical and mental development.

More updates to follow.

A timeline of surrogacy in the Kingdom:

MOST VIEWED

  • PM orders immediate action against ‘sexy’ live streamers

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered immediate action against women who live stream their sales pitches on Facebook wearing revealing clothing. The prime minister said the practice erodes traditional Cambodian values and disgraces women. Hun Sen gave the order to officials attending the Cambodian

  • Trump tweets praise for Kingdom docking ship

    Cambodia continues to earn praise for its humanitarian act of allowing the MS Westerdam cruise ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board to dock at the Preah Sihanouk port. The praise this time comes from none other than US President Donald Trump. “Thank

  • Tourist area greenlit in Sihanoukville

    The National Committee for Coastal Management and Development will coordinate with relevant ministries over the establishment of a billion-dollar tourist area named Neak Reach in Preah Sihanouk province after it was proposed by the Ministry of Tourism. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and

  • Hun Sen defends decision to dock Westerdam cruise ship

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday hit back at critics who say he allowed the Westerdam cruise ship to dock in Sihanoukville for political reasons. Speaking at an annual gathering of the Ministry of Interior, Hun Sen said he acted to avert a humanitarian catastrophe

  • Organic vegetable retailer unveils QR code scheme for origin source

    Organic vegetable retailer Natural Agriculture Village has introduced QR codes on its product packaging, which will allow consumers to see where their produce comes from. Natural Agriculture Village president Bun Sieng, who is also a member of local distributor Green Gold, told The Post on

  • Cool heads will defeat Covid-19

    Since Covid-19 was first reported as a world health issue, cruise ships have been the worst to suffer after airlines. The experiences of those who were initially trapped on the Covid-19-stricken Diamond Princess are unimaginable. The cruise ship was rejected from docking at one