Australian nurse denies running illegal surrogacy in Cambodia

Australian national Tammy Davis-Charles (R), 49, sits in a prison car as she travels to Phnom Penh municipal court. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2017

Australian nurse denies running illegal surrogacy in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH: An Australian nurse denied running an illegal surrogacy service in Cambodia when her trial began Tuesday, the first case of its kind in the country that recently banned the practice.
Tammy Davis-Charles, 49, was arrested in late November with two Cambodians and accused of recruiting foreign couples and Cambodian surrogate mothers to a clinic in the capital Phnom Penh.
The detentions came just two weeks after Cambodia moved to outlaw the surrogacy industry, which critics say exploits poor women, after a similar ban in neighboring Thailand pushed the business across its borders.
The trio were also charged with faking documents to obtain birth certificates for the newborns.
In court on Tuesday Davis-Charles said she played no part in arranging surrogacies.
Instead she said her role was limited to providing medical care to a total of 23 surrogate mothers who carried babies for 18 Australian and five American couples.
“They find the clinic” by themselves, she said of the would-be foreign parents, adding that she was also not involved in the recruitment of Cambodian surrogates.
The nurse said she received $8,000 from each couple while surrogates received around $10,000.
All of the infants were born and moved out of Cambodia before her arrest, she added.
Davis-Charles, who is from Melbourne, told the court she left Thailand more than a year ago after Bangkok outlawed commercial surrogacy and moved to Cambodia, which at the time lacked regulations on the industry.
Thailand for years hosted a thriving yet largely unregulated international surrogacy industry that was particularly popular with same-sex couples.
But several scandals in 2014 — including tussles over custody — spurred the government to bar foreigners from using Thai surrogates.
Surrogacy consultants say Laos, a poor and opaque communist country to the north, has since emerged as the next frontier for the “rent a womb” business in the wake of the recent bans by Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and India.
A number of Laos-linked surrogacy agencies and IVF clinics have cropped up in recent months, according to consultancy group Families Through Surrogacy. A Thai man was recently arrested for smuggling frozen sperm between the two countries.
Some offer to carry out the embryo transfer in Laos and then provide pregnancy care for the surrogate in Thailand, a wealthier country with vastly superior medical facilities.

Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

Muslims attend Friday Prayers at the Great Mosque of Al Azhar in Jakarta, Indonesia, as government eases restrictions amid a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, June 5, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 June 2020

Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

  • Mosque capacity reduced to half, with health protocols in place
  • Jakarta remains center of the pandemic in Indonesia

JAKARTA: Mosques in Jakarta welcomed congregations for Friday prayers for the first time after an 11-week shutdown due to coronavirus curbs as the Indonesian capital began to ease control measures.

“I am grateful I can perform Friday prayers again after almost three months,” Ilham Roni, a worshipper at Cut Meutia Mosque in Central Jakarta, told Arab News.

“As a Jakarta resident, I have been complying with city regulations. Now that we can pray again, I follow the health protocols by maintaining social distance, wearing a facial mask and washing my hands (before entering the mosque).”

Mosques are opened by a caretaker 30 minutes before prayer starts and are closed 30 minutes after the conclusion of the congregational prayer.

Caretakers at Al I’thisom Mosque in South Jakarta have been preparing since Tuesday, even before Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announced on Thursday that the city is extending its COVID-19 restrictions for the third time since measures came into force on April 10.

The capital is easing lockdown curbs in phases, starting with the reopening of places of worship on Friday, although capacity has been halved and strict health protocols put in place.

“We did not know if we would be allowed to reopen the mosque, but we kept preparing to put out markings just in case, and on Thursday we got the confirmation,” one of the mosque caretakers Sumidi, who goes only by one name, told Arab News.

He said the mosque now can only accommodate 400 worshippers out of its normal 1,000 capacity.

Caretakers have put up markings to keep a 1.2-meter distance between worshippers inside the mosque, while in its parking lot, the distance is maintained at 97 cm. Hand-washing facilities have been installed at the entrance.

The governor did not set a fixed date for the extension to end, although the most likely time frame is until the end of June as the city is in a transition mode throughout the month.

Workplaces and businesses with standalone locations can open from June 8, to be followed by non-food retailers in malls and shopping centers from June 15. Recreational parks will be allowed to reopen on June 21.

“Essentially, all activities are allowed to accommodate 50 percent of their normal capacity and by strictly maintaining social distancing measures. The movement of people has to be engineered to meet this criteria,” Baswedan said during a live press conference. “This is the golden rule during the transition phase.”

"If we see a spike in new cases during this phase, the city administration will have to enforce its authority to halt these eased restrictions. It is our ‘emergency brake’ policy,” Baswedan said.

Jakarta remains the center of the pandemic in Indonesia, although infections in the city no longer account for half or more of the national tally, as has been the case since the outbreak was confirmed in Indonesia in early March.

As of June 5, Jakarta accounts for 7,766 cases of infections out of the 29,521 in the national total, with 524 deaths out of 1,770 who have died in the country.

Baswedan said since the introduction of restrictions in mid-March, the city has seen a significant drop in infections and deaths following a peak in mid-April.

But the transition phase depends on the residents’ continued strict compliance with virus-control measures, he said.

“We will evaluate by the end of June. If all indicators are good, we can begin the second phase,” Baswedan said.

“We don’t want to go back to the way it was in the previous month.”