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    Sep 03, 2014

    Fresh surrogacy furore erupts


    A MAN has been charged in Australia with sexually abusing twins he fathered with a Thai surrogate, media reports and children's organisations said yesterday.

    The case is the second in as many months to ignite debate about commercial surrogacy, after another Australian couple left a surrogate baby who was born with Down's syndrome in Thailand.

    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said that in the latest case, the Thai mother, Siriwan Nitichad, had agreed to carry a child for a man and his wife who had not been able to conceive.

    "She said her husband wanted to have a baby so much, please help them, please help them," the woman, also known as Ms Aon, told the broadcaster.

    Ms Aon, who lives in Phetchabun province north of Bangkok, said she agreed to use her own eggs, was paid about A$5,500 (S$6,400) and gave birth to the twins some years ago.

    Ilya Smirnoff, executive director of Childline Thailand, an organisation involved in the case, did not name the mother but said he believed the children were now aged about seven, and that the allegations dated back some two years.

    "Initially, she (the mother) felt pleased to be a surrogate and do a good thing by helping the couple...but when she found out about this (abuse charge) she was extremely devastated," he told AFP.

    "She is the biological mother and it is even more devastating to discover these things."

    A Sydney-based non-governmental organisation called International Social Service Australia confirmed that an Australian state government had contacted it about two years ago, seeking to trace a surrogate mother in Thailand, and it had contacted Childline.

    It said it helped to obtain an "assessment on her (the mother's) suitability to provide long-term care for the children", but that, ultimately, the children had not been taken back to Thailand.

    It is understood that after the twins were born, the couple took them back to Australia, but the marriage later broke up.

    Media reports said court documents reveal that the father, who cannot be named, was charged with indecently dealing with the children last year.

    The man - who reportedly denies the allegations, which also include the alleged possession of child-abuse material - is expected to fight the charges when they come before a court later this year.

    The children have remained with the man's former wife. But Ms Aon, who now has two children with her husband, told ABC she was open to the idea of taking the twins back.

    The case follows that of baby Gammy, who was born with Down's syndrome to a Thai surrogate for an Australian couple in December.

    In that case, the couple took the boy's healthy twin sister back to Australia but left Gammy in Thailand.

    It prompted calls by the authorities in Bangkok for tighter controls and raised concerns about the practice of international surrogacy.

    Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia, but growing numbers of people are travelling to countries such as India and Thailand to engage women to carry their babies.