Weeks after Cambodia cracked down on its commercial surrogacy industry, an Australian woman is facing trafficking charges. The industry was recently banned in Thailand, India and Nepal as well.
A Cambodian court has charged an Australian woman for operating an illegal clinic that offered surrogacy services to foreign couples, police said on Monday.
The practice, which pairs would-be parents with local surrogate mothers, has only been illegal in the country since last month.
Tammy Davis-Charles was arrested in the capital, Phnom Penh, on Friday along with two Cambodian staff. The arrests were the result of a 10-month investigation into Davis-Charles' clinic Fertility Solutions PGD, police said. The clinic charged foreign clients $50,000 (47,000 euros) for surrogacy services and paid Cambodian women upwards of $10,000 to carry the clients' child.
On the clinic's website, Davis-Charles described offering surrogocy services as "the most rewarding and fulfilling job I could ask for."
Commercial surrogacy had gone unregulated in Cambodia until October, when the Southeast Asian country moved to ban the booming industry, following the lead of Thailand, India and Nepal. Many couples from developed countries, struggling to conceive a child turn to Asian countries like Cambodia for affordable surrogacy services.
"If we don't crack down on this, it will blossom," said Cambodian Police Colonel Keo Thea, director of Phnom Penh's anti-trafficking bureau. "We don't want to become a country that exports humans."
Davis-Charles, an Austrialian citizen, had moved her clinic from Thailand to Cambodia over a year ago after Thailand imposed a ban on commercial surrogacy in February 2015.
Davis-Charles did not attend the court hearing on Monday due to illness. She faces a maximum of 17 months in prison and a fine of 1 million riel (230 euros).
ae/tj (Reuters, dpa)