Four Australian nationalities, along with four other US citizens, were detained in Thailand for allegedly attempting to leave the country with surrogate children.
Last Thursday, two Australian couples were held off by Thailand officials in the Bangkok Airport. Both couples were reported to be of same-sex relationships, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. With them were children born by Thai women.
According to a statement given by the immigration police to AFP, "They (the couples) didn't have documents to prove that the father is the child's legal guardian."
The case has now moved officials to review and execute new rules for surrogacy and acquiring children's custody. Commercial surrogacy is not illegal in Thailand, which has made the country a sought after destination for foreigners looking for surrogate mothers, according to BBC.
A surrogate mother is someone who is willing and capable of bearing a child for another couple. In this case, an Australian same-sex couple sought the services of a surrogate mother. In a statement told by a surrogacy lawyer to The Guardian, around 200 couples might be affected by the changes in Thailand's custody rules. In another report from BBC, Australian surrogacy agencies estimate that around 100 Australian couples are waiting for babies to be born from surrogate mothers in Thailand.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia said that Australians should consult legal advice on commercial surrogacy, as well as entering and leaving Thailand. "We strongly urge Australians entering Thailand for the purposes of commercial surrogacy to seek independent legal advice in both Thailand and Australia before doing so...In particular, they should seek advice on the implications of any new exit requirements," the department released in a statement.
According to Thai laws, children are not allowed to leave the country unless they are traveling with parents. Several couples have already been detained in the past due to lack of sufficient custody documents, the U.S. Embassy affirmed.