Surrogate mother Pattharamon Janbua with Gammy. Photo: EPA Nannies hold some of the nine babies alleged to be the surrogate children of one Japanese man, after a police raid at a Bangkok apartment. Photo: EPA
Bangkok: Thai authorities have been accused of holding the babies of Australian biological parents to ransom amid a crackdown on Thailand’s booming commercial surrogacy industry.
Three Australian couples carrying their babies born to Thai surrogate women have been turned away from Bangkok international airport, leaving them ”extremely distraught”, surrogacy industry sources say.
Up to 150 Australian couples with existing surrogacy arrangements in Thailand face months of agonised waiting before they learn if they can take their babies home.
”They shouldn’t be holding these kids to ransom,” Stephen Page, a leading Australian surrogacy lawyer, said. ”These distraught parents entered into arrangements in Thailand in good faith … they thought they were coming to Thailand for four weeks at a time and they now face six months, and possibly losing the house back home.”
Thailand’s military rulers have declared the couples will have to obtain an order from the country’s Family Juvenile Court before they can take the babies through Thai immigration channels. The order will have to confirm the birth mother has given up her rights to custody of the child.
Mr Page appealed to Thailand’s military regime to make a clear statement about where the parents stand. Many of the parents are believed to be in a state of near-panic, their dreams of a baby shattered.
”There should be an open process, rather than doing it by smoke and mirrors,” Mr Page said.
He said that under Thai law the birth mother is the legal mother and the intention of the Thai Juvenile Court in dealing with the Australians with existing surrogacy arrangements is unclear.
”Let us assume the intention of judicial oversight is to facilitate the children being able to leave. How long will it take? Is it going to be a quick process, while still thorough, or is it going to take many months?”
Mr Page said he is worried that if the Australian parents fail to meet the court’s criteria for parental rights and the surrogate has gone back to her home, babies could end up in Thai orphanages.
”The agreement always was that the parents would take the babies,” he said.
Eleven babies born to a Japanese businessman who fathered 15 babies to surrogate mothers are being cared for in a Bangkok orphanage, their future uncertain.
Two Australian same-sex couples with surrogate babies were turned back from the airport on Thursday, the ABC reported. The surrogate of one of the couples was with them.
It was earlier reported that another couple with a baby was turned back from the airport late last week after being detained for hours.
Thai immigration authorities have advised the Australian embassy that as well as a court order, parents will be required to provide immigration officials with the child’s birth certificate, a copy of the mother’s identification card, a copy of the intending parents’ passports and the surrogacy contract.
”We strongly urge Australians entering Thailand for the purposes of commercial surrogacy to seek independent legal advice in both Thailand and Australia before doing so,” a spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said.
”While regulation of surrogacy in Thailand is a matter for Thailand, we continue to encourage Thai authorities to adopt appropriate transitional arrangements for any new measures they may introduce, so concerned Australians are not unduly affected.”
Under a sweeping crackdown imposed after Fairfax Media revealed the plight of baby Gammy, the six-month-old boy with Down syndrome left in Thailand by his Australian biological father, fertility clinics have been raided, and documents and frozen embryos of Australians seized.
Thailand’s military rulers are fast-tracking legislation that will ban commercial surrogacy except for family members, with violators of the law facing up to 10 years in jail.
Amid a furore over the baby Gammy case, authorities in Bangkok have accused Pisit Tantiwattanakul, the most popular doctor for Australians coming to Thailand for surrogacy, of violating the law by providing services for customers who were not relatives of one of the commissioning parents, as required under Medical Council of Thailand regulations.
Dr Pisit operated the All IVF Centre, which has been forced to close, leaving about 50 Australians couple in limbo, some of them unable to contact their surrogates.
Dr Pisit could not be reached for comment.
Police and public health officials have raided and shut down New Life IVF, another Bangkok clinic popular with foreigners, for allegedly violating the law governing healthcare institutions and medical ethics. No one was available at the clinic for comment.
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