PHNOM PENH • An Australian nurse and two Cambodian assistants were found guilty of running an illegal commercial surrogacy clinic in Cambodia and each sentenced to 1½ years in jail yesterday.
South-east Asia has been a popular international destination for infertile couples looking to have babies through commercial surrogacy.
But Thailand banned the practice in 2015 after a series of high-profile cases, and Cambodia followed suit last year.
Tammy Davis-Charles, 49, was found guilty of being an intermediary in surrogacy and engaging in falsifying documents along with two Cambodian workers, Penh Rithy and Samrithchan Chariya, said Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge So Lyna.
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The two Cambodians knew about the commercial surrogacy ban but still engaged in the business, the judge added.
The judge said Davis-Charles charged foreign couples between US$50,000 (S$68,000) and US$70,000 each for surrogacy services and paid Cambodian women between US$10,000 and US$12,000 each to carry babies on their behalf.
She said Davis-Charles provided surrogacy services to 23 Australian and American couples and paid Penh Rithy US$600 to US$800 to organise paperwork for babies born through Cambodian surrogate mothers so that they could leave Cambodia with their parents.
A tearful Davis-Charles, who denied the charges against her, refused to answer reporters' questions after the verdict was read out in court.
The Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.
Davis-Charles, who has been detained in the Cambodian capital since November last year, told the court during the trial that her job was only to take care of surrogate mothers.
She said she did not know surrogacy was illegal in Cambodia.
She was also fined US$1,000, and Penh Rithy and Samrithchan Chariya were fined US$500 each.
As a result of the ban on commercial surrogacy in Cambodia and Thailand, many couples are now turning to communist Laos for in-vitro fertilisation and surrogacy services.