At Close of Surrogacy Trial, Australian Nurse Pleads for Mercy

The trial of an Australian woman and two Cambodians accused of illegally operating a surrogacy business in Cambodia came to an emotional close on Monday as two of the defendants begged the court to return them to their children.

Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles, 49, Samrith Chakrya, 35, and Pech Rithy, 28, are accused of falsifying documents and acting as intermediaries between adoptive parents and pregnant women. They were arrested in November after the government outlawed surrogacy a month earlier amid a burgeoning—and unregulated—industry. All three face up to two years in jail if convicted.

From left to right : Samrith Chakrya; Tammy Davis Charles; Pech Rithy. (Fresh News)

At the end of Monday’s hearing, Ms. Davis-Charles, herself the mother of twin boys born by a surrogate in Thailand, broke down in tears as she described the toll the case had taken on her.

“Since I’ve been imprisoned, I have been very unwell. I lost 20 kilos. I have cancer in my left eye,” she said. “I have not seen my twin boys.”

“I have lost everything,” she added.

Ms. Davis-Charles has six children, including the 5-year-old twins.

She was comforted by Ms. Chakrya, a nurse she hired to help look after the surrogate mothers.

Ms. Chakrya also got upset as she told the court she was separated from her 4-month-old baby when she was arrested, and that she was suffering from ill health.

“I broke away from my baby since she was still 4 months old,” she said in tears.

“I went into the prison and it is equal to the half-death of my body,” she added.

Pech Rithy, 28, asked the judge to “find justice” for him.

In last month’s hearing and again on Monday, Ms. Davis-Charles claimed Mr. Rithy processed documents for the babies, including birth certificates, and also took surrogate mothers for checkups. Mr. Rithy has downplayed his role, saying he simply passed the documents along to immigration.

Ms. Davis-Charles also claims Mr. Rithy worked for a Bangkok-based brokering firm called Sy Management, which Mr. Rithy denies. He maintains he was paid by Ms. Davis-Charles.

The testimony of surrogate mother Chhorn Sreyrath, which was read out by a court clerk, said Mr. Rithy had introduced her to Phnom Penh-based Fertility Clinic of Cambodia (FCC), where surrogate mothers went for screenings and procedures.

Chheang Sophorn, Ms. Davis-Charles’ lawyer, said his client was just a “middle person” for FCC and Sy Management. No witnesses had said she was anything more, he added.

“Are there any documents showing that my client was a broker and received the commission?” he said.

Ms. Davis-Charles has said she was assured by Cambodian lawyers that surrogacy was legal when she began doing business in the country.

The Interior Ministry has ordered intended parents to go through the Cambodian courts before attempting to take their babies home.

The verdict is expected on August 3.,

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