Cambodia's surrogacy scandal
Inside this poor village in Cambodia, Melbourne nurse Tammy Davis-Charles illegally recruited commercial surrogates before she was jailed.
Phnom Penh: The Australian embassy in Cambodia granted Australian passports to at least five babies born to surrogate mothers after being presented falsified documents, Cambodian authorities say.
Top Cambodian Interior Ministry official Chou Bun Eng has confirmed that falsified documents were used in cases where Australians have taken babies from Cambodia in recent months.
"The documents state that the husband is an Australian and the wife is Cambodian … and their child is Australian," Ms Bun Eng, secretary of state at the ministry, told Cambodian television.
But investigations by Cambodian anti-human trafficking police have revealed that the Cambodian surrogate mothers were already married and have previous children to Cambodian men, and there is no evidence they married the Australians.
Fairfax Media has obtained a copy of a birth certificate issued by a clinic in Phnom Penh which claimed that Charles Artman, a 27 year-old Ghana-born man travelling on an Australian passport, was the husband of surrogate mother Hour Vanny.
But 35-year-old Ms Hour Vanny has said she never married Mr Artman and only met him briefly after a baby she delivered by caesarean section was taken from her at the clinic in August.
Mr Artman, who paid arrested Australian surrogacy broker Tammy Davis-Charles $US50,000 to take the baby from Cambodia, could not be located for comment.
Asked about the case, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs refused to comment, citing privacy legislation.
The Australian government's refusal to provide information about Australian biological parents to Cambodian investigators has strained ties with the Cambodian government as authorities crack down on a multimillion-dollar surrogacy industry that emerged in Phnom Penh last year, after clinics and brokers were chased out of Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.
Australia has a policy of not becoming involved with Australians negotiating surrogacy arrangements overseas.
But the policy has irked Cambodian officials who say Australia must not shirk responsibility for a human tragedy unfolding in the country.
Dozens of surrogate mothers carrying babies for Australians have gone into hiding, fearing arrest under the crackdown.
But officials say surrogates will be treated as victims and are worried they are not receiving regular medical check-ups and medicines.
Officials have appealed for an estimated 70 Australian biological parents who have entered into agreements in Cambodia to come forward to identify themselves and prove they are the real parents of babies carried by surrogate mothers.
Officials have made clear that the parents will not be allowed to take the babies home unless they undergo Cambodian-supervised DNA and other tests.
Authorities have declared that commercial surrogacy constitutes human trafficking pending the passing of a future law which has not yet been drafted.
Ms Davis-Charles, a mother of six, including twins born through surrogacy, is facing up to two years' jail on criminal charges relating to allegedly running a surrogacy business and allegedly falsifying documents
Ms Davis-Charles has declined to comment, on the instructions of her lawyer. She is being held in Phnom Penh's harsh Prey Sar prison pending trial.