Authorities will not prosecute Cambodian surrogate mothers or the parents of the children they are carrying, a police official said on Tuesday as an Australian nurse and two associates involved in the industry were sent to jail to await trial.
Tammy Davis-Charles, 49, founder of surrogacy agency Fertility Solutions PGD, and two Cambodians—Phen Rithy, 28, an official with the Commerce Ministry, and nurse Samrithchan Chariya, 35—were arrested on Friday after being accused of illegal activity for matching surrogate mothers with potential parents.
Tammy Davis-Charles is assisted into a police car on Monday by anti-human trafficking officials and staff from the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital. (Sonia Kohlbacher/The Cambodia Daily) On Monday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials provisionally charged all three with fraudulently requesting documents and acting as an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman.
They returned to the court on Tuesday morning, where Investigating Judge Ros Piseth ordered them to be sent to Prey Sar prison to await trial, said court spokesman Y Rin.
The case against Ms. Davis-Charles is the first of its kind since Health Minister Mam Bunheng announced a ban on surrogate pregnancies last month while the government drafts a law regulating the practice.
Keo Thea, chief of the anti-human trafficking bureau, said authorities would continue to prosecute surrogacy providers, but declined to say if it was pursuing other investigations.
Mr. Thea said his unit had identified 18 Cambodian women contracted by Ms. Davis-Charles’ company who are currently pregnant with children, mostly for Australian couples. He said another five surrogate mothers hired by the company have already given birth to six children after receiving payments of between $10,000 and $12,000.
The women and intended parents would be offered assistance and need not fear the law, Mr. Thea said. “The surrogate mothers are victims and those who want children are also not guilty,” he said.
Government officials, the Australian Embassy and pregnant surrogate mothers were scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss how to proceed.
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