Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Surrogacy hearing postponed



Surrogacy hearing postponed

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Tammy Davis-Charles (centre) ducks down to avoid the press after her trial hearing yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Pha Lina

Surrogacy hearing postponed

The trial of Australian surrogacy agency founder Tammy Davis-Charles was postponed yesterday due to the absence of four witnesses, with Davis and her co-defendants sent back to pretrial detention in Prey Sar prison.

In an unprecedented case, Davis-Charles was arrested in November, along with Ministry of Commerce official Penh Rithy and nurse Samrith Chakriya, for their alleged involvement in an international commercial surrogacy ring.

Read more: Cambodian mother says she was caught up in surrogacy

The industry had blossomed in the Kingdom after high-profile scandals saw the practice shut down in countries like India, Nepal and Thailand. Couples desperate for biological children began to seek out Cambodian wombs to bear their babies.

Cambodia is still drafting a commercial surrogacy law, but a directive from the Health Ministry in October – a month before Davis-Charles was arrested – saw it suddenly outlawed.

In a Phnom Penh Municipal Court hearing yesterday, the prosecution asked the presiding judge, So Lina, to postpone the proceedings, as four witnesses – surrogates allegedly employed by Davis-Charles’s Fertility Solutions PGD business – and police officers had failed to show up.

Davis-Charles’s lawyers objected and urged the trial to go ahead, saying witnesses had already provided testimony that was recorded in court documents.

Judge Lina, however, said she would arrange a new trial date – a decision defence lawyer Chheang Sophorn labelled a rights violation.

“When the court delays the trial, it affects the rights of my client,” he said. “It is just a misdemeanour case, and she has already been in detention for six months.”

Yesterday marked exactly six months since the trio were arrested – the maximum amount of time a person can spend in pretrial detention without an extension.

The three were charged under Article 332 of the Penal Code, originally drafted to combat human trafficking, which involves being an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman, and carries a maximum prison sentence of six months. But they also face a charge related to the possession of fraudulent documents, which could carry an additional two-year term.

Dozens of agencies like Fertility Solutions operated here before the crackdown, with many now setting up in Laos. Cambodia is still smoothing out a court process for an “exit strategy” so intended parents can take their children home.

Last week, Sam Everingham of the Australian-based Families Through Surrogacy took issue with the drawn-out process, saying that “surrogates are giving birth in Cambodia every week to children for foreigners as [the] Cambodian government continues to debate guidelines”.

Chou Bun Eng, of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking, said so far the parents of just 18 children had filed documents at the immigration office to begin the exit process. However, some couples have evaded the courts and taken their newborns across borders.

Bun Eng said couples who left after making a passport for “the Khmer child” without going through Cambodia’s court system, were essentially trafficking children.

The Australian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment regarding any consular assistance to Davis-Charles, or questions about the number of Australian couples they are aiding after the surrogacy crackdown.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia's cluster cases jump to 259

    The Ministry of Health on February 27 recorded 26 more cases of Covid-19 linked to the February 20 community transmission, bringing the total to 259 in one week. The 26 include three Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. The ministry noted that five of the Chinese