National / Crime & Legal

Japanese father of numerous children born using surrogate mothers sues in Thai court for paternal rights

Kyodo

A Japanese man who fathered at least a dozen babies using Thai surrogate mothers appeared in court via video conference Tuesday, testifying in a case in which he is suing the government for paternal rights.

His lawyer said that the Central Juvenile Court, where the case that has drawn wide attention is being heard, will issue its ruling on Feb. 20.

The 28-year-old man who lives in Japan reportedly hired many Thai women to bear his children in 2014.

The babies are being cared for under the watch of the Thai Ministry of Social Development and Human Security until the case reaches its conclusion.

It is not clear how many there are, with some reports saying dozens.

The lawyer said his client, who testified from Japan, wanted to have dozens of babies because he desired a large family and hopes they can inherit his fortune in the future.

But in 2015, Thailand banned commercial surrogacy.

According to local media, the Japanese man and some of the Thai surrogate women initiated a lawsuit against the ministry that year, alleging that the government violated their rights.

At Tuesday’s hearing, ministry personnel took turns testifying in court.

One of them went to Cambodia and Japan to visit places where the man intends to have his kids raised and said “everything looks good.”

Previously, surrogacy was not strictly regulated in Thailand, and many foreigners turned to it for surrogates, drawn by both the relatively low cost and high-quality health care available in the country.

But it became a hot issue in the Southeast Asian country following a string of scandals, including the one involving the Japanese man and another involving an Australian couple who abandoned a surrogate-born boy with Down syndrome and just took home his healthy twin sister.

Now, only couples with at least one Thai partner can access the country’s surrogacy services and, in the case of marriages between people of mixed nationalities, they must have been legally married for at least three years.

The surrogate mother must be a Thai citizen over the age of 25 who is preferably a blood relative but is neither a parent nor a daughter of the couple. She must have given birth before and she cannot receive any direct fees for being a surrogate.