Thailand has passed a law to outlaw the use of Thai surrogates by foreign couples.
The law, passed by the ruling junta government last week, stipulates that foreigners will be prohibited from using Thai surrogates unless they have been married to a Thai national for at least three years. The violation of the law carries a prison sentence of up to ten years. Agents for surrogate mothers also face lengthy prison sentences.
"This law aims to stop Thai women's wombs from becoming the world's womb. This law bans foreign couples from coming to Thailand to seek commercial surrogacy services," said Wanlop Tankananurak, a member of Thailand's National Legislative Assembly.
Thailand was rocked by several surrogacy scandals last year, including allegations that an Australian couple abandoned a baby boy with Down syndrome while taking his healthy twin sister.
Another case involved a Japanese man who fathered at least 15 babies using Thai surrogates in what local media called the "baby factory".
Critics of the new law say that making commercial surrogacy illegal could push the industry underground, making it harder for patients to access quality physicians and medical care.
But some are sceptical that the legislation will even be implemented. “Law enforcement in South East Asia is famously lax”, wrote BBC correspondent Jonathan Head.
Thailand's junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, disbanded the upper house Senate following a May coup and placed all law-making authority in the hands of an interim parliament hand-picked by the military rulers.
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