BANGKOK – Six Thai surrogate mothers of babies fathered by a Japanese man have filed lawsuits against him and Thailand’s Social Development and Human Security Ministry to reclaim their children, officials disclosed on Wednesday.
Vichian Chawalit, permanent secretary of the ministry, said the women are seeking an order from the Central Juvenile and Family Court in Bangkok that would allow them to gain custody of the nine infants.
The children have been looked after by Thai social services for the past six months and the mothers have been visiting regularly.
“They are seeking custody of the children,” said Suvanna Pinkaew, another official with the ministry.
She rejected the allegation that authorities are failing to care for the children as the lawsuit claims.
“We never said the mothers cannot get the children back . . . but they need to go through the ministry’s process,” Suvanna said.
That process includes proving they can care for the children and have safe family backgrounds, according to Suvanna.
Police have reported that the women were each paid around $12,500 to be surrogates.
On Tuesday, local media reported that the 24-year-old father, who was identified in earlier reports as businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta, had filed a lawsuit against the Thai government to gain custody of some of his children.
He is known to have fathered 19 babies using surrogate mothers and is seeking custody of 13 that are currently under the care of the Thai government.
The official said it is not clear whether the two moves are related.
A welfare official said the man’s parents earlier expressed interest in visiting the babies at the ministry’s shelter in Nonthaburi province in January.
A spotlight was cast on Thailand’s shadowy commercial surrogacy industry in August 2014 after an Australian couple who allegedly paid a woman to carry twins took only one of the infants home after finding that the other had Down syndrome.
The couple denied deliberately leaving the boy, called Gammy, with the Thai surrogate mother, who was paid around $15,000 to carry the twins.
Paid surrogacy is officially banned by the Medical Council of Thailand, and authorities moved to close several IVF clinics following the scandal.
A new law to tighten loopholes is additionally under consideration by the kingdom’s National Legislative Assembly.
It carries tough penalties that could see anyone found guilty of involvement in the trade jailed for 10 years.
Dozens, and possibly hundreds of foreign couples are thought to have been left in limbo after entering into surrogacy arrangements through clinics in the kingdom before the summer’s scandals.