Across the world, legalities and regulations differ when it comes to surrogacy. Part of the work that Global Surrogacy does is to ensure that we know exactly what is legally permitted in different countries – whether that is the Intended Parents’ country of origin or the surrogate’s location.
Thailand is a special case when it comes to international surrogacy services. Historically, it had been a location for what has been known as ‘surrogacy tourism’; a regular visit for those who were looking to complete their families.
Especially popular with Australians, the unregulated surrogacy available in Thailand was particularly attractive to same-sex parents who are willing to cross borders to make their families complete. The possibility of getting that much-wanted, biologically related baby – at a cheaper cost – is an understandable draw.
However, the answer to the question ‘is surrogacy legal in Thailand?‘ is complicated. The law changed in 2015 following a couple of major international news stories that highlighted the problems with international intended parents and the nature of the unregulated industry.
What Made the Surrogacy Laws in Thailand Change
Two major international news stories changed the way Thai officials viewed surrogacy and are the reason the law was changed.
First, Baby Gammy. An Australian couple travelled to Thailand and their surrogacy was successful – the surrogate mother was carrying twins, and all was well. However, the intended parents returned to Australia with only their daughter, leaving the other child in Thailand.
The surrogate claimed that the couple had abandoned the other child, a boy, because he had Down’s Syndrome. The Australian couple claimed that the agency they used had only informed them of the one child – and had since closed, so there was nobody to confirm either way.
While the surrogate took in the son and applied for custody of the daughter too, it was ruled that the Australian couple did not legally abandon the child. However, further information that the father had been imprisoned for child sex offences made the whole matter murkier, and more concerning about the unregulated nature of the industry.
Another worrying facet of the unregulated surrogacy industry in Thailand centered on businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta. When a raid on a house in Bangkok revealed 9 babies born through surrogacy to one man, questions began to be asked. Although Shigeta claimed that he just wanted a big family, the agency he used said that he wanted 10-15 babies a year – for as long as he lived. He claimed he had the means to provide for them as a successful Japanese businessman, and he had already fathered 16 children in total.
Interpol was not convinced and began an investigation to uncover the real motivation for this large number of children. They were understandably concerned about the possibility of child trafficking and the exploitation of children. In the end, he was awarded custody of three of the children and is still campaigning for paternal rights for the rest of the children. Ultimately his motives were found to be legitimate and the Thai courts awarded him parentage in respect of all of his children.
These two cases led to a complete shake up of the surrogacy laws in Thailand – making it impossible for international intended parents to complete a legal surrogacy there.
Can a Surrogacy Happen in Thailand?
So, is surrogacy legal in Thailand? The answer is yes – if at least one parent is a Thai native. The rules for the intended parents are that they cannot be international.
The rules are:
- Only heterosexual couples (Thai law does not recognise homosexual marriage and no single people of either sex).
- At least one spouse must hold Thai nationality.
- Must have been married at least three years.
To make things even more complicated, the rules about who can be the surrogate are also complicated. The surrogate must be a sibling of one of the married couple, they must be married themselves and have the permission of their husband, and they must have already had at least one child.
To answer the question “is surrogacy legal in Cambodia” one need only be told that an Australian woman who was operating a surrogacy agency in Cambodia, together with a number of Cambodian women who acted as surrogates, ended up in prison in Cambodia. The Australian woman spent a lot longer imprisoned than did the Cambodian surrogates. Australian nurse released in Cambodia
Laos is a beautiful and peaceful country where the locals are being exploited for surrogacy due to the uncertainty of laws and regulations. It is only a matter of time until there are outcomes similar to those in Cambodia.
In summary all of the surrogacy options available in Asia are for locals and not open to foreigners.
For international intended parents, Thailand is no longer an option for finding the perfect surrogate and Cambodia and Laos are not and never were.