Some sources report that the father, 24 year-old Mitsutoki Shigeta, also launched legal proceedings demanding the babies' release. The Bangkok Post, however, reports this as a 'mistaken' announcement from Thai Social Development and Human Security Ministry permanent secretary Vichien Chavalit.
Chavalit subsequently said that 'it is actually the Thai mothers who have filed the suit with the Central Juvenile and Family Court', the newspaper says.
Suwanna Pinkaew, director of the Women and Child Welfare Protection Bureau, which is currently taking care of the children, has confirmed that six of the surrogate mothers, three of whom gave birth to twins, are seeking custody.
Their lawsuit alleges that the Thai authorities are failing to care for the children adequately, according to the AFP news agency. Something which Pinkaew, speaking to The Bangkok Post, refutes.
'Every child being cared for at the babies' home is receiving quality childcare and their development has greatly improved. The mothers are not prohibited from seeing their babies but must follow the home’s regulations,' she said.
As to custody, Pinkaew says: 'After the requests were received, we have initiated and are in the process of evaluating the circumstances and the women's readiness before making a decision.'
The peculiar case came to light last year when police raided an apartment in Bangkok and discovered between nine and thirteen babies (reports vary) living in a few unfurnished rooms and being cared for by nannies. The surrogates had allegedly been paid US $12,500 each.
Sky News Australia reports that Shigeta 'fled' Thailand following investigations related to the legitimacy of the surrogacy arrangements.
The broadcaster adds that he told Mariam Kukunashvili of surrogacy agency New Life Global Network: 'The best thing I can do for the world is to leave many children.' He had apparently hoped to father between 100 and 1,000 babies. There is no suggestion that New Life Global Network was in any way involved with Shigeta's arrangements.
Sam Everingham of the Australian non-profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy told Voice of America that Shigeta's case is 'a pretty appalling example of abuse of international surrogacy by foreigners. And it's one of the reasons which led to the acceleration of the closure of access to surrogacy in Thailand by foreigners.'
The interim parliament of Thailand approved a ban on commercial surrogacy late last year (reported in BioNews 782).