Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian mother says she was caught up in surrogacy

Cambodian mother says she was caught up in surrogacy

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Tammy Davis-Charles (right) and Sambath Chakriya (left, wearing a mask), are escorted outside Phnom Penh court after their trial yesterday. Chhay Channyda

Cambodian mother says she was caught up in surrogacy

Wiping tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand, Samrith Chakriya smiled and reached for her child at Phnom Penh’s Municipal Court yesterday.

Her daughter is just 10 months old and dressed in pastel pink, and it’s clear she’s not completely at ease in Chakriya’s arms.

For the past six months, Chakriya has been imprisoned at Prey Sar and has been mostly separated from her infant, after she was suddenly arrested for her alleged role in an international commercial surrogacy ring. There’s a cruel irony that in the process of helping couples desperate for biological babies, she was cut off from her own.

Yet Chakriya claims to have been unwittingly caught up in the commercial surrogacy business. Working as a nurse at Sihanouk Hospital Centre of Hope in Phnom Penh, Chakriya took on some part-time work for Australian Tammy Davis-Charles, founder of Fertility Solutions PDG, in October of 2015. “I did not know the baby was for surrogacy, because my work is only looking after and caring for the patient,” she said yesterday after her trial in which she faces up to two years in prison was postponed.

“I had no idea working for her would lead to my arrest.”

She earned $200 a month for the first three months, but this was bumped up to $650 last year. “This work was just to earn extra salary. It was just to take care of patients; I’m just a nurse, not a midwife. I did not know about the law.’’

At the time of her arrest, Chakriya had stopped working for Davis-Charles. Chakriya gave birth in July and was on maternity leave, spending each day with her new daughter, when police came for her in November.

Commercial surrogacy is a fraught enterprise: advocates say it helps couples fulfil their dreams of raising a child, but detractors say it exploits impoverished women with scarce options. In Cambodia, couples have routinely paid around $50,000 for a child, with the surrogate promised $10,000.

Cambodia is still drafting a law on surrogacy, but in the meantime Chakriya faces charges related to fraudulent documents and acting as an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman.

At the court yesterday, Chakriya’s family flocked around her. Her father, Samrith Savoeun, a motodop driver by trade, remained stoic. ”I pity my daughter, because she is just a nurse. I don’t know why she was arrested, about these kinds of charges,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Takeo hand-woven silk items provide local high-quality alternative to imports

    After graduating from university and beginning her career as a civil servant at the the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khieu Sina found time to establish a business that aligns with her true passion – quality hand-woven Khmer goods. Her product line, known as Banteay Srei,

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,