Move follows highly-publicized scandals which have highlighted failures in the country's 'surrogacy industry.'
BANGKOK - The Thai junta has given preliminary approval to a draft law which would ban commercial surrogacy in Thailand in the wake of a series of highly-publicized scandals which have highlighted failures in the country's "surrogacy industry."
"We will punish through criminal law those who practice and are involved in commercial surrogacy," a junta spokeswoman told reporters Wednesday.
"Those who hire surrogate mothers will be violating criminal law."
The legislation -- which remains to be passed by the National Legislative Assembly, a 200 member-body fully appointed by the junta July 31 -- follows an international outcry over accusations that an Australian couple abandoned a baby born to a Thai surrogate mother.
The parents are reported to have taken home his healthy twin sister, but left the boy -- affected with Down Syndrome -- in Thailand.
During an interview with Australian TV on August 10, the Australian couple affirmed they actually wanted to take home both babies, but were prevented from doing so by the surrogate mother who threatened to report them to police.
In another case, a young Japanese man has been accused of fathering at least 15 babies through Thai surrogate mothers.
He fled Thailand soon after news emerged August 5, having taken four of the children home with him on earlier trips. It is not known what happened to the other children.
There are currently no laws governing surrogacy in Thailand, which makes the kingdom a favored destination for those who cannot have children naturally and are looking for surrogate mothers.
Regulations by the Medical Council of Thailand restrict surrogacy within a same family, requesting that the surrogate mother be a relative of one of the two commissioning parents.
According to the Department of Health Service Support, a division of the Thai health ministry, the country's "commercial surrogacy industry" is worth $125 million each year.
There are around 20 surrogacy agencies, mostly owned by foreigners, in Thailand, the sector expanding after India adopted stricter surrogacy laws in late 2012. On average, a Thai surrogate mother's cut of the fee paid by commissioning parents is $14,000, the largest share going to the agency.
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