Australian Woman Arrested In Cambodia Following House Raid
A 49-year-old Australian woman will face a Phnom Penh court on Monday following her arrest for allegedly running a surrogacy agency in breach of Cambodia new laws banning surrogacy.
Tammy Davis-Charles, a nurse and fertility specialist from Melbourne, was arrested at a rented house in Phnom Penh on Friday in a raid following an edict banning surrogacy in Cambodia.
The raid was led by Cambodia's chief of the Anti-trafficking Office, Police Colonel Keo Thea.
He said Davis-Charles was detained for acting as an "intermediary in surrogacy and for falsifying documents." Officers also seized passports, money, mobile phones and documents during the raid.
Keo Thea said Davis-Charles had arranged for more than 20 Cambodian women to carry babies through her Fertility Solutions PGD Clinic.
"So far five or six children have been born over more than a year in Cambodia," he said. Reports on Sunday said a leading Cambodian IVF medical practitioner had also been arrested.
The raid comes soon after Cambodia announced a directive banning all forms of surrogacy, calling the programs "a form of human trading".
There are up to 50 surrogate agencies operating in Cambodia, which has seen a sharp rise in demand for services as a countries such as Thailand, India and Nepal has introduced bans on surrogacy.
Sam Everingham, director of the Australian non-profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy, said the arrests marked a clear sign the Cambodian government "were serious about the change in policy".
"They are going to make it clear that those operators who are doing business there that they'll need to just not take Thai surrogates into Cambodia and falsify documents," he told AAP.
"It's clear that Cambodia's keen to make sure that that (practice) stops (and) it's a good thing," he said.
But Everingham said as many as 70 Australian couples impacted by the tougher approach by Cambodian authorities on surrogacy from up to 400 couples from elsewhere.
Australians in Cambodia affected by the crackdown on the surrogacy program will reportedly meet at the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday.
Everingham called on authorities "to make sure they do respect the safety of the surrogates and the babies and the parents in the transition period here".
He also criticised the delays by the federal government in moving ahead with recommendations for a national law on surrogacy in Australia.
Attorney-General George Brandis is yet to respond to a recommendation from the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs for the government task the Australian Law Reform Commission to develop a model national law to regulate surrogacy.
"Really, it's a failure of the Commonwealth to take action on its reported commission that was tabled last May on surrogacy," he said.
The Cambodian crackdown was "upsetting for a lot of these people who can't afford to engage in surrogacy in Australia or from outside Australia".
"It's a real wake up call for the Australian government not just be putting pressure on these overseas countries but actually get their own act together," he said.