Gay couple with surrogate baby can't leave Thailand

Gay couple with surrogate baby can't leave Thailand
UNDER WATCH: An in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinic in Bangkok. In the wake of a surrogacy scandal, authorities have raided several IVF clinics in the Thai capital.

A gay Australian couple have been stopped from leaving Thailand with a baby for having incomplete documents for the child, immigration police said yesterday.

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

Major-General Suwichpol Imjairach of the immigration police 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 documents 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 stopped from leaving Thailand with surrogate babies recently.

A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters that he was not aware of any policy preventing foreign couples from leaving Thailand with their babies, as long as their paperwork was in order.

Immigration authorities at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport declined to comment.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Thursday that 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 spokesman called for "transitional arrangements" for any new rules to help any affected Australians.

Thailand has been at the centre of a surrogacy scandal since a Thai woman said she was paid about A$15,000 (S$17,400) to carry a baby for an Australian couple, who she alleged then rejected a boy born with Down syndrome, but took his twin sister.

DENIAL

Mr David Farnell and his wife, Wendy, have denied leaving the boy, called Gammy, with the surrogate mother.

Mr Farnell is a convicted sex offender.

Meanwhile, Thai authorities last week 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 in-vitro fertilisation clinics in Bangkok and a surrogacy bill is likely to be fast-tracked through the new National Legislative Assembly over the coming weeks, AFP reported.

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

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

There are fears that foreigners currently waiting for surrogate babies to be born in Thailand could be snared by any tightening of the law. A crackdown would leave in limbo an estimated 250 foreign couples, about 150 of them Australian, who have travelled to Thailand to have babies with surrogate mothers, Surrogacy Australia global director Sam Everingham told Reuters.

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia. It is legal in some US states, but many US couples still travel to Thailand for the procedure because it is cheaper there.

Mr Everingham said he was meeting senior Australian government officials to discuss consular support for Australian couples in Thailand with a surrogate baby.


This article was first published on August 16, 2014.
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