Bangkok: An Australian couple has claimed they were unaware of the existence of Gammy, the critically unwell boy who has Down syndrome, after they took his twin sister to Australia.
In a dramatic new twist to the story the Australian father and the Thai surrogate mother are telling different versions about what happened.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is quoting the unidentified father as saying a Thai surrogacy clinic doctor only told them about the baby girl.
The man was quoted as saying he had a lot of trouble with the surrogacy agency and had been told it no longer existed.
But Gammy’s Thai surrogate mother Pattharamon Janbua told Fairfax Media the parents told her they could not take Gammy because they are too old to care for twins.
She claimed the father, who is in his 50s, “came to the hospital to take care of the girl but never looked Gammy in the face or carried him.”
“He did not buy milk for Gammy. He only bought milk for the girl,” Ms Pattharamon said from a Thai hospital where Gammy is critically unwell.
“The twins stayed next to each other but the father never looked at Gammy … not one bottle of milk did he give Gammy,” she said.
“I could say he never touched Gammy at all.”
Ms Pattharamon, who is known as “Goy,” said she wants to meet with the surrogacy agent and the Australian couple.
“I would like to ask them who is telling the lie,” she said.
Ms Pattharamon said Gammy is responding better to a lung infection after being transferred to an international-standard hospital as fund-raising for his medical expenses and long-term care topped $200,000.
Ms Pattharamon wept when told by a representative of Australian charity Hands Across the Water she will have enough money to pay doctors to treat Gammy's lung infection and receive life-saving surgery he needs for a congenital heart condition.
“My children love Gammy very much and want him to come home,” she said, referring to her two other children aged three and six.
Ms Pattharamon plans to file a police complaint on Monday against the surrogacy agency which still owes her thousands of dollars she was promised for giving birth to twins.
After Fairfax Media revealed the anonymous Australian couple took Gammy’s healthy twin sister and left their mother to try to save Gammy’s life, authorities have intensified a crackdown on surrogacy and gender selection in Thailand, a booming multimillion-dollar industry.
Dozens of Thai clinics have pulled down or changed websites advertising surrogacy and gender selection IVF procedures that were popular with Australians.
The crackdown has left an estimated 200 Australian couples who have surrogacy arrangements in Thailand facing an uncertain future for their babies.
Many had taken on trust the advice of Thai doctors and surrogacy agents the agreements they signed were a reliable pathway to parenthood.
The deputy director of Thailand’s Department of Health Services Support, Tanes Krassanairawiwong, said Gammy’s case was raised at a meeting of medical and legal officials last week that discussed planned changes to IVF regulations.
“I used Gammy’s case as the example of a negative effect from not using a blood relative as the surrogate mother,” Mr Tanes said.
“[Blood relatives] would not leave behind a child like that,” he said.
“Even though it is not illegal since there is no law to control it, morally this is very wrong.”
Officials threw Thailand’s surrogacy business into crisis after the meeting when they declared that altruistic surrogacy will be allowed only where a married couple cannot conceive a child and engages a blood relative to carry their child.
Any arrangement where money is provided to the surrogate to carry the child was illegal, they said.
And any foreigner removing a child from their mother to another country permanently without permission from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would face prosecution under human trafficking laws.
Demand for in vitro fertilisation, with the option of choosing the child’s gender, has been growing at more than 20 per cent in Thailand where the industry has been largely unregulated.
The country has 44 IVF clinics with four new facilities opening last year.
Draft legislation proposing the banning of commercial surrogacy and the brokering of surrogacy arrangements through third parties had sat dormant in Thailand’s parliament for four years, despite reports that some unregistered surrogacy operators had been exploiting vulnerable surrogates and intending partners.
But the military junta that seized power on May 22 has swung its support behind the Medical Council of Thailand, the organisation in charge of enforcing medical ethical standards in Thailand, which has been steadily tightening guidelines on IVF and gestational surrogacy.
After reports in mid-July that Chinese were flooding Bangkok clinics for IVF procedures to select a baby’s sex, authorities raided more than a dozen clinics.
Confidential documents on at least one Australian couple awaiting the birth of twins to a Thai surrogate woman were seized, leaving them unable to check on the condition of their babies.
Authorities have warned that clinics advertising gender selection would be prosecuted.