CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian man has been charged with sexually abusing twin girls he fathered several years ago to a Thai surrogate mother in another case that casts a harsh light on Thailand's beleaguered surrogacy industry.
The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was charged in a New South Wales state court last year with committing acts of indecency with a victim under 10 years old, court documents showed Tuesday. The girls were around 4 and 5 years old, Nine Network television reported.
The charges are the latest blow to the credibility of the commercial surrogacy industry in Thailand, which the Southeast Asian country's military junta has vowed to shut down.
Court documents show that the father, who is in his 50s, has also been charged with possessing child pornography materials that were found in a raid on his home, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
The man, who denies the allegations, will go on trial in the coastal city of Gosford on Dec. 8, documents show. He is currently free on bail.
The twins were born about seven years ago to a 23-year-old Thai surrogate mother, Siriwan Nitichad, also known as Aon, who lives in Thailand's Petchabun province.
Aon agreed to act as a surrogate for a couple from Australia who could not conceive on their own, ABC reported.
"They said they were just married and they really wanted to have a baby so much," Aon told ABC. "She said her husband wanted to have a baby so much, please help them, please help them."
Aon agreed to use her own eggs with the Australian man's sperm. She said she was paid 170,000 baht ($5,300).
She said the twins were born with lung and other health problems. They were 4 or 5 months old when she handed them over to the Australian couple.
"They were so lovely, I wanted them to stay with me, I did not want to let them go," Aon told ABC.
"If they asked if they could cancel their payment and we kept the babies, I would definitely have said 'yes,'" she added.
Court documents show that the father became unemployed, allegedly had a violent temper and the marriage broke down, ABC reported.
The children are now in the care of the ex-wife of the accused man, and Australian child welfare authorities are working on plans for their care, ABC said.
Ilya Smirnoff, executive director of Childline Thailand Foundation, a child welfare organization, said Tuesday that Australian officials had considered sending the twins back to Thailand to live with their biological mother after their father was charged.
But Australia's Family Court issued an order last year on the girls' long-term care, he said. Smirnoff would not detail the terms of the order, or say who cares for the girls.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is negotiating with Thai authorities to help Australian couples bring home babies already conceived by Thai surrogates before the recent crackdown on the industry, said Tuesday it could not comment on specific cases due to privacy considerations.
The New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services would not answer questions about the girls' current living circumstances and potential for returning to Thailand, saying in a statement that it was "unable to provide any comments about this matter."
Thai authorities have been cracking down on the largely unregulated surrogacy industry since recent publicity over allegations that an Australian couple had abandoned a baby boy born to a surrogate Thai mother after learning he had Down syndrome. The couple, who took the boy's healthy twin sister home, has said they wanted to bring the boy with them and the Thai surrogate has acknowledged she kept him because she feared he would end up in a state institution.
Associated Press writer Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok contributed to this report.