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.


US moves troops, tanks into Lithuania in message to Russia

Updated 6 min 20 sec ago

US moves troops, tanks into Lithuania in message to Russia

VILNIUS: The United States on Monday began deploying a battalion of troops and dozens of tanks to Lithuania for an unprecedented six-month rotation, a move sought by the Baltic EU and NATO state to deter neighboring Russia.
Dozens of Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles arrived by railway at the army training area in Pabrade.
Lithuania’s Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said the deployment of some 500 US troops scheduled to stay through the winter proves that a US military presence on NATO’s eastern flank “is no longer a taboo.”
“First and foremost, it is a message to Lithuania and neighboring NATO states that allies are together with us,” the minister told AFP.
“And it is also a message to Russia that the US is engaged, and it is an additional deterrence element,” he added.
Ben Hodges, the former commander of US Army forces in Europe, said the US deployment was a “manifestation of American commitment to continued deterrence along NATO’s eastern flank,” at the time when US was pulling American troops out of Syria and abandoning its Kurdish allies.
“Nobody, including the Russians, should be confused by the Americans’ commitment to NATO despite what was I think a mistake of pulling out of Syria,” Hodges told AFP via telephone.
Two years ago, NATO deployed a German-led multinational battalion of around 1,000 troops to Lithuania, an EU and NATO nation of 2,8 million people.
The alliance installed similar battalions in Poland and Baltic states Estonia and Latvia as tripwires against possible Russian adventurism in the region after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
The entire region had been dominated by the Soviet Union for more than 40 years after World War II.