August 24, 2014 01:00 By Jim Pollard The Sunday Nation
Couples hope top general's order to relax handling of cases means a more swift passage home
An order by the prime minister-elect for police and health officials to relax the enforcement of regulations in regard to surrogacy has been welcomed by foreigners in Bangkok waiting to return to their home countries with children born to Thai surrogates.
Speaking in his weekly TV programme on Friday night, junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said surrogacy arrangements should be handled on a case-by-case basis as laws on such matters were currently unclear.
Prayuth said there were concerns about the well-being of babies and the women carrying them as there were signs they had been getting scared and had stopped visiting doctors.
Foreign embassies are also likely to welcome Prayuth’s remarks, given that hundreds of women are believed to be carrying babies for people from a range of countries.
Diplomats from countries such as Australia have voiced fears that a crackdown on surrogacy services in the wake of the “Baby Gammy” affair (about a twin boy with Down’s syndrome left with his surrogate mother by a couple that took only his twin sister to Australia) and a Japanese man fathering more than a dozen children may spur negative repercussions.
Couples from Australia have revealed that they have lost contact with Thai surrogates carrying babies for them, who appeared to have “gone to ground” amid the recent groundswell of publicity. They feared that some Thai mothers may abort their babies.
One couple told a reporter for an Australian paper yesterday that Prayuth’s remarks “could be very good news” as it suggested the Thai government was sympathetic to their plight. But they did not want to get their hopes up too much.
News that several couples were prevented by immigration officials at Suvarnabhumi Airport from leaving the country recently with children born to Thai surrogates – and advised to get an order from the Juvenile and Family Court allowing them to depart with the children – has also spurred concern that some foreign couples may avoid coming to collect their babies if they are likely to be stuck here for months while such matters are sorted out in a Thai court.
The number of Thai women carrying children for foreign couples is not known but it could be many hundreds, as couples have been coming from China, Taiwan and a lot of other countries for some time to get children from clinics in Bangkok. The Australian embassy alone has estimated that up to 150 women could be carrying babies for couples from Down Under.
Currently, there are at least 10 Aussie couples, with 14 babies, in the process of getting passports and citizenship documents. These couples have been getting anxious, fearing they will get stuck in Bangkok for months till they get the green light from the court to leave with their babies, an embassy source revealed.
The possible requirement of couples needing a court order before they can leave with a child they got via a Thai surrogate is something that “parents haven’t factored into their budget, time here or leave arrangements”, the source said. “They have jobs to get back to.”
They were hoping Thai officials would handle such matters swiftly – not up to six months, as feared.
The source said Thailand was perfectly entitled to ban commercial surrogacy – as many other countries have done. But he hoped to see pragmatic handling and resolution of cases in the “transitional phase” before the interim government passes a law on surrogacy.