Bangkok: The surrogate mothers of nine babies fathered by a Japanese man and taken into care by Thai authorities last year have launched legal proceedings to regain custody of the infants, an official said on Wednesday.
The alleged father, who was at the time was reported by Japanese media to be the son of an IT millionaire, left Thailand as a surrogacy scandal erupted in August following the discovery of nine babies in a Bangkok apartment.
Tests revealed he is the biological father of at least 15 babies born to surrogates in the kingdom, although his motives for fathering so many children remain unclear.
Thai social services have been caring for the nine infants for the last six months, although the mothers have been allowed regular visits.
Six of the mothers, who police said were each paid around USD 12,500 to be surrogates, have now launched civil proceedings to get their babies back.
"They are seeking custody of the children," Suvanna Pinkaew, an official from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, told a news agency.
Their lawsuit, filed at a juvenile and family court, alleges that authorities are failing to care for the children adequately, she added, though she rejected the accusation.
"We never said the mothers cannot get the children back... but they need to pass through the ministry`s process," Suvanna said.
That process includes proving they can care for the children and have a child-safe family background, the official added.
Thailand`s shadowy commercial surrogacy industry was thrust into the limelight in August 2014 following accusations that an Australian couple abandoned a baby born with Down`s syndrome, but took his healthy twin sister.
The couple denied deliberately leaving the boy, called Gammy, with the Thai surrogate mother, who was paid around USD 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 in the weeks after the scandal.
A new law to tighten loopholes is also 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, 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.