Aussie couple with 'surrogate' baby refused exit from Thailand

Aussie couple with 'surrogate' baby refused exit from Thailand
Police officers leave after they searched the New Life Fertility clinic in downtown Bangkok August 14, 2014. According to authorities, the New Life Fertility clinic has not received permission to operate surrogacy services since it opened in early July this year. Thailand's military government gave preliminary approval on Wednesday for a draft law to make commercial surrogacy a criminal offence, following a spate of dramatic surrogacy scandals in the past two weeks.

BANGKOK - A gay Australian couple have been stopped from leaving Thailand with a baby for having incomplete documents for the infant, immigration police said Friday, in the latest twist in a widening surrogacy scandal in the kingdom.

The men were trying to leave for Singapore through the capital's main international airport on Thursday.

Immigration police official, Major General Suwichpol Imjairach, said it was unclear if the baby had been born to a Thai surrogate mother.

"They didn't have documents to prove that the father is the child's legal guardian... so we asked them to get the document from the court," he told AFP, adding they were the only couple to be stopped at the airport so far.

Australian media have reported that the men were one of four foreign couples to be stopped leaving Thailand with surrogate babies over recent days.

The kingdom has been at the centre of surrogacy scandal since a Thai woman said she was paid around $15,000 to carry a baby for a different Australian couple, who she alleged then rejected a boy born with Down syndrome - but took his twin sister.

David Farnell, 56, and his wife have denied leaving the boy, called Gammy, with the surrogate mother. Farnell is a convicted sex offender.

Thai authorities last week also found nine babies in a plush Bangkok condo, all apparently born to surrogate mothers but with the same Japanese father, prompting the kingdom's military rulers to vow to tighten its surrogacy laws.

Over the last few days officials have raided a number of IVF clinics in Bangkok and a surrogacy bill is likely to be fast-tracked through the new National Legislative Assembly over coming weeks.

The law will ban women from carrying babies for commericial purposes and restrict surrogacy to relatives. It threatens anyone found in breach with 10 years in jail and fine.

There are fears foreigners currently waiting for surrogate babies to be born in Thailand could be snared by any tightening of the law.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday said it could not confirm if any of its citizens had been refused exit from Thailand for "privacy reasons".

While acknowledging surrogacy laws in Thailand are "a matter for Thailand" a department spokeswoman called for "transitional arrangements" for any new rules to help any affected Australians.

The US Embassy in Bangkok also said it is "engaging Thai government officials" over the potential impact on US citizens who have already entered into surrogacy agreements in the kingdom.

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