A Phnom Penh fertility clinic implicated during Cambodia’s first commercial surrogacy trial since the practice was banned in October is not being investigated, a police official said on Sunday.
Australian Tammy Davis–Charles, who was arrested alongside two of her Cambodian colleagues in November, repeated at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last Tuesday what she said she told police when she was arrested: that she had simply been working as a “medical assistant” to surrogate mothers at Fertility Clinic of Cambodia (FCC).
Despite Ms. Davis-Charles’ claim and various surrogacy websites mentioning the clinic, FCC has so far eluded questioning.
Keo Thea, chief of Phnom Penh’s anti-human trafficking bureau, said on Sunday that police had sought out a recruiting agent working for FCC but “they fled already.” Police would not question FCC without a court order, he added.
“We sent the documents to the court already—let the court manage” this decision, Mr. Thea said.
Contacted on Sunday, court spokesman Y Rin said he was not in Phnom Penh and could not confirm whether the court had received the documents.
FCC director Dr. Sean Sokteang did not respond to repeated requests for comment last week. However, a receptionist admitted that Ms. Davis-Charles, 49, had visited the clinic “a few times,” but denied any professional ties.
Asked to clarify why Ms. Davis-Charles had been to the clinic, the receptionist, who refused to provide her name, said “I don’t want to say anymore.” She also denied the clinic ever provided surrogacy services before hanging up the telephone.
Ms. Davis-Charles also claimed a Bangkok-based agency called Sy Management recruited surrogate mothers and sent them to FCC.
Information about the agency could not be found online last week. However, the head of Thailand-based surrogacy provider New Genetics Global (NGG) on Friday confirmed the agency’s existence and Ms. Davis-Charles’ claim in court that its director—a man named “Sun Hengly”—previously worked for NGG.
Ms. Davis-Charles told the court she had done similar consultancy work with NGG when she was based in Bangkok.
NGG founder and chief executive Josh Lam said in an email that Mr. Hengly had worked for his company as an outsource agent and translator until “I disconnected from him after his unsavory and limited engagement with us nearly 3 years ago.”
He said Mr. Hengly and his Cambodian team “then befriended Tammy” despite his cautioning industry insiders about him.
“I had warned other clinics and agents in our industry about how he falsely represented NGG along with our intended parents, surrogate mothers and clinics,” Mr. Lam said.
Ms. Davis-Charles also claimed in court that “FCC used New Genetics Global to do all assessments for families.” When Mr. Hengly was “dismissed” by NGG, FCC started using Sy Management instead, she said.
Ms. Davis-Charles’ own company, Fertility Solutions PGD, which she set up in Thailand, was not mentioned during Tuesday’s hearing.
Ms. Davis-Charles and her former co-workers, Samrith Chakrya, 35, and Pech Rithy, 28, face charges of fraudulently requesting documents and acting as intermediaries between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman. All three face a maximum of two years in prison if convicted.
The trial will continue at an undetermined date.
© 2017, Hannah Hawkins. All rights reserved.