Lack of Witnesses Prolongs Commercial Surrogacy Trial

A Phnom Penh judge yesterday delayed the trial of an Australian national and two Cambodians arrested in November for their involvement in commercial surrogacy, a decision one of the defendants’ lawyers said was unnecessary considering they had already been detained for six months over an alleged misdemeanor.

During a 10-minute hearing, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sor Linna sided with the prosecutor’s request to delay the case due to the absence of witnesses and victims.

Tammy Davis-Charles is questioned by officials in Phnom Penh last year in a photograph supplied by police.

“The court wants the witnesses and victims to be present at the hearing,” Judge Linna said.

The Health Ministry banned commercial surrogacy in October, a move ministry officials said was a temporary measure to allow the Justice Ministry to draft a law governing the practice.

The three suspects—Australian national Tammy Davis-Charles, founder of surrogacy agency Fertility Solutions PGD; Phen Rithy, a Commerce Ministry official; and Samrithchan Chariya, a nurse—were arrested and charged in November with fraudulently requesting documents and acting as an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman.

Chheang Sophorn, Ms. Davis-Charles’ defense lawyer, objected to the length of his client’s provisional detention and argued that the witness testimony already presented to the court was enough for the trial to proceed.

“It is already six months,” Mr. Sophorn said outside the court- room yesterday, adding that a further delay “would affect [Ms. Davis-Charles’] rights.”

Ms. Davis-Charles did not respond to requests for comment at the court yesterday, while reporters were unable to speak to Mr. Rithy and Ms. Chariya.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Byrne)

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