THAILAND

Four couples barred from taking surrogate babies home from Thailand

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 August, 2014, 1:27am
AP

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Four couples from the United States and Australia have been prevented from leaving Thailand with babies born to surrogate mothers as part of a government crackdown on the burgeoning commercial surrogacy industry, an Australian broadcaster reported yesterday.

The move follows publicity over a Thai surrogate mother who said she was left with a baby rejected by his Australian biological parents after he was born with Down's syndrome. The biological parents, who took the boy's healthy twin sister home, dispute the circumstances in which they abandoned the boy.

Two Australian same-sex couples were prevented by Thai officials from leaving Bangkok airport on Thursday afternoon with babies born to Thai women, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. One couple had attempted to travel with the Thai surrogate mother in the hope of avoiding a challenge at the immigration desk, ABC said.

Two US couples had been prevented from leaving Thailand with babies in similar circumstances since Wednesday. Thai officials said the couples would have to apply for court orders to take the babies out of the country, a process that could take months.

Thailand's immigration police spokesman Colonel Voravat Amornvivat said the Bangkok airport's immigration departure section had no record of Australian couples with surrogate babies who were barred from leaving Thailand. He said, however, that it might be possible that it was not flagged in the system.

"If it did happen, it could be because the couples could not provide sufficient documents to prove that the babies are theirs," Voravat said. "Under Thai law, in order to bring an infant out of the country, it has to be proven that the infant is travelling with or accompanied by the parents. And due to the recent surrogacy issue, the authorities are stricter in keeping an eye on those leaving the country."

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would not confirm the report, citing privacy reasons. "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," the department said in a statement.

Thai officials said they would be travelling to Cambodia after an adviser to a Japanese man who had claimed to be the father of at least 15 babies in Thailand invited the officials yesterday. The invitation was apparently to show how well four children allegedly fathered by the man are being raised in Cambodia.

It was not if clear if the adviser was referring to Mitsutoki Shigeta, 24, a Hong Kong-based Japanese man wanted by Thai police for alleged human trafficking. They suspect he fathered children with nine different women.

AP, Kyodo