Australian nurse jailed for illegal Cambodian surrogacy

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image captionDavis-Charles (right, sitting in car) was found guilty of commercial surrogacy

An Australian nurse has been jailed for 18 months in Cambodia for providing commercial surrogacy services.

Tammy Davis-Charles was arrested in Phnom Penh in November last year, shortly after the Cambodian government had banned commercial surrogacy.

During her trial the 49-year-old denied the charges and said she only provided medical care to the surrogates.

Commercial surrogacy has grown in South East Asia in recent years, prompting some countries to take action.

On Thursday Davis-Charles, who has already spent the past nine months in detention, was found guilty of acting as an intermediary between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman.

She was also found guilty of fraudulently obtaining documents.

Earlier reports said that Davis-Charles had operated a clinic that matched foreign couples with Cambodian surrogate mothers.

She had said in court she did not recruit the parents and only took care of the mothers to "make sure they were safe".

Two Cambodians said to have worked with her, Samrith Chakriy and Penh Rithy, were also found guilty and jailed over similar charges.

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image captionCommercial surrogacy has been on the rise in Asia

In 2015 Thailand imposed a ban on foreigners seeking Thai surrogate mothers following a string of scandals in the industry.

This led to an uptick in commercial surrogacy in neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, which then moved swiftly to impose a total ban.

But the practice has continued to flourish in other places where it is not regulated, such as Laos.

Besides commercial surrogacy, Cambodia has also recently banned organ trafficking and the export of breast milk.

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