A baby at the centre of a Thai surrogacy scandal has been granted Australian citizenship, authorities said Tuesday, after his birth mother said he was abandoned by a Perth couple who went home with his healthy twin sister.
Baby Gammy sparked a global debate about the legal and moral issues surrounding surrogacy when reports emerged in August that he was left behind by the pair, who returned to Australia with his sister Pipah.
The couple have denied abandoning the boy, who has Down's syndrome, saying they had wanted to bring him home and left Thailand fearing the surrogate mother would seize their daughter. "The department can confirm that an application for baby Gammy's Australian citizenship by descent has been assessed and found to have met all criteria for the grant," an immigration department spokeswoman said in a statement.
"It is not appropriate for the department to make any further comments on this case." Surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua, who is in her early 20s, confirmed her son had been granted Australian citizenship. "He got citizenship four days ago. The Australian embassy called me on Friday to ask me to come and collect the documents," she told AFP by telephone from her home in Chonburi province, 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of the capital Bangkok.
Pattaramon, also known as Goy, said she has no immediate plans to take her son to Australia but applied for citizenship with the help of the Australian charity Hands Across the Water as a safeguard for his future.
"I want him to be near me here (in Thailand) so that I don't have to miss him," the 21-year-old mother said. "But if all of my family, including me die and if Gammy is left behind alone, at least the Australian government will help him." She added that Gammy is in good health and turned one in December.
The baby has moved into a new home in Chonburi province about 90 kilometres south-east of Bangkok using money donated by well-wishers across the globe, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Gammy's biological father, David Farnell, a convicted sex offender, is under investigation by the authorities in Western Australia regarding the wellbeing and safety of Pipah. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia, prompting growing numbers of infertile couples to head overseas to countries such as India and Thailand to fulfil their dreams of having a family.