Go easy on surrogates, Australia asks

Go easy on surrogates, Australia asks
Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, plays with his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua's mother at a hospital in Chonburi province August 3, 2014.

Australia has asked Thailand to "go easy" on the enforcement of surrogacy rules during the period before a law is enacted for the benefit of mothers and babies for humanitarian reasons, Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow said yesterday.

In a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the ASEAN meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Sihasak that her government has no policy to support commercial surrogacy and Thailand has full authority to handle the issue in accordance with domestic laws.

The use of surrogate mothers has become a bilateral issue between Thailand and Australia since news emerged that a baby boy born to a Thai surrogate was allegedly abandoned by an Australian couple after they found he had Down's syndrome. Inquiries into the case found the surrogacy was arranged by a clinic in Bangkok as a commercial arrangement.

Sihasak said the Australian minister Bishop told him that Canberra never supported any Australians travelling to Thailand to get surrogate children. But there may be ongoing cases in which surrogate mothers are still pregnant and Australia asked Thai authorities to treat them gently for humanitarian reasons, Sihasak said.

Asked what the Australian government could do about the case of a baby boy nicknamed Gammy born to a Chon Buri woman late last year, Sihasak said Australian charity groups had lent support hands to this case (collecting donations for the mother).

In the meeting, Sihasak also discussed political developments in Thailand. He said that Bishop, the Australian minister, expressed her understanding about developments and offered assistance for the reform process, if Thailand wanted that.

The Abbott government strongly criticised the coup and curtailed some military activities with Thailand after the military seized power on May 22. "But the meeting mostly focused on the future of relations," he said.

Journalists in Bangkok believe Thai surrogates could be carrying dozens of children for Australian couples.

Meanwhile, the Australian couple who allegedly left Gammy here with its surrogate mother will tell their side of the story publicly for the first time today (August 10) on the Australian TV show '60 Minutes'.

The couple will not be paid for their appearance but bosses of the programme will donate an undisclosed sum to the Hands Across the Water charity, which is raising money for Gammy's care.

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