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Assisted Reproduction

Baby Gammy Update: Australian Parents Contacted By Authorities

I still do not think we are any closer to finding out the truth of what happened:

Australian authorities said Thursday they had finally contacted a man exposed as a convicted paedophile at the centre of a Thai surrogate baby scandal, as his son defended him as a changed man. Child protection officials had been trying to touch base with the man and his wife since Tuesday but visits to their home in Bunbury, south of Perth, went unanswered.

The man, 56, sparked global controversy for apparently abandoning his Down’s syndrome baby boy, Gammy, in Thailand and taking only his healthy twin sister back home, although he and his wife dispute the circumstances. It subsequently emerged that he was convicted in the 1990s on 22 child sex abuse charges involving girls as young as seven, state broadcaster ABC reported.

An investigation was launched this week into the safety and welfare of the twin sister but authorities were unable to find the family. But Western Australia Child Protection Minister Helen Morton said her department had now made phone contact with the biological parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons. “This family needs the opportunity to have the considerations around the safety and well-being of that child undertaken in a really private, comfortable environment for them,” she told Fairfax Radio.

Morton gave no details about the nature of the discussion or the welfare of the baby girl and said no further comment would be made while an investigation was underway. “We think that the family deserves the opportunity for privacy and confidentiality,” she said.

The Thai surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, has said she was shocked to hear of the child sex convictions and was willing to take back the twin sister — aged seven months — if the allegations were true. The biological father has three adult children and one of them said he was a changed man since spending time in jail for the sex convictions.

“I can tell you how good of a father my dad was towards us. He’s amazing. He’s brought the best out of all of us kids,” the son, who did not want to be named, told Fairfax Media. “He’s just got a massive heart. He’s made mistakes, we’ve accepted it… He’s made up for them. “For everything to be brought back up is pretty heartbreaking to be honest.”

Pattaramon, 21, has said she agreed to carry another Thai donor’s egg fertilised by the Australian man in exchange for around US$14,900. An agency, which she refuses to name for legal reasons, acted as the go-between. She claims the agency told her the parents wanted her to have an abortion — which is illegal in Thailand — once medical tests revealed the boy had Down’s syndrome, but she refused. The Australian couple have disputed her version, claiming they were told Gammy had a congenital heart condition but not Down’s syndrome, and left him in Thailand because doctors said he would not survive more than a day or so.

Meanwhile, another report has Ms. Chanbua being accused of recruiting other women to be surrogates — just two months ago:

n an interview with the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, Kamonthip Musikawong of the IVFParenting.com agency – indentified in earlier stories as Joy – said Pattaramon Chanbua of Si Racha used the Facebook website to recruit women aged between 20 and 30 who were in good health and had babies before, to join her in the surrogacy business.

The Telegraph, which gained access to Ms Pattaramon’s Facebook account, said none of her online posts suggest she was unhappy. They include pictures of happy married couples and their children playing, and glimpses of a middle-class life, not that of the poverty-stricken food vendor she purports to be. The Telegraph said she posts from her BlackBerry smartphone, and includes pictures of expensive ice cream and clothing. Her mother’s food stand also has an air conditioner, which the very poor cannot afford, the newspaper said.

Ms Kamonthip told the paper that Ms Pattaramon had been paid in full to be a surrogate, even though she has repeatedly told the media she was still owed 100,000 baht.

The Telegraph said the claims by Ms Kamonthip cast doubt on key elements of Ms Pattaramon’s story of the past few days, which provoked an international outcry at the apparent heartlessness of an Australian couple who had agreed to pay her 300,000 baht to bear twins on their behalf, but were accused of leaving her to bear the cost of raising baby Gammy, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome and a heart condition, on her own.

In fact, Ms Kamonthip said, the Australian couple did not abandon baby Gammy. It was Ms Pattaramon, who has two other children, who refused to allow the couple to have Gammy after they pleaded to take him with his twin sister back to Australia.

She further alleged in the Telegraph article that Ms Pattaramon’s role as a recruiter undermined her complaints.

“If you have had a sad experience about being (a) surrogate, why did you recruit surrogate mothers for some agencies just two months ago?” she was quoted as asking. “If the agency or parents owe you any money, why didn’t you go to the police earlier? Why didn’t you do anything earlier?”

Ms Pattaramon later confirmed she had used Facebook to solicit others to join the surrogacy agency, but said she’d not worked as an agent for some time. She declined to comment further.


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