Thailand’s Unwanted Children – The Consequences of Holiday Debauchery
There are numerous “dek khrueng” or “half-children” born to women who work in Thailand’s red-light districts. Many men from foreign countries come to Thailand for a short holiday to spend their time with Thai women. Some of these men leave without knowing that they have a child.
Others know about their child and still decide return to their home country. These women are left pregnant with a difficult choice in a country where intentionally terminating a pregnancy is illegal except for certain circumstances.
In Thailand, abortions are only allowed to save the mother’s life, to preserve the mother’s physical or mental health, or if the pregnancy is a result of a forced illegal act. The illegal acts that allow the intentional termination of pregnancies are where the pregnancy was a result of rape, incest, force prostitution, or seduction of a girl under the age of 15.Abortions can only be legally performed by a licensed medical physician.
Many hospitals do not provide this procedure because of the controversy over the issue. The controversy over intentional termination of a pregnancy is complicated by the fact that 95% of Thai people are practicing Buddhists. The foundations of Buddhist philosophy are the belief in intent and the value of life. It does not make a distinction between an unborn fetus and live born baby. There is a strong social stigma to intentionally terminating a pregnancy in Thailand.
The primary option for children born from prostitution are their extended families. Generally Thai women who work in the red light districts come from poor families and have low education levels. They work in those professions to earn money for to support their families. If they have a child, the children are usually sent to back to their home province to be cared for by the grandparents.
The family is interwoven into most Thais social support network. Parents have children so that they will be supported when they get old. Adult children support their parents when they old and expect their parents to help take care of their grandchildren. Most households are multigenerational where grandparents, adult children, and grandchildren all live in the same home. For the poorer rural areas, the family network is a necessity for living.
Generally Thai people are morally conservative and women are modest. Financial circumstances force many Thai women to work in the red light districts.Pregnancy without marriage look down upon. There is a social stigma attached to “luk khrueng” if the father is not around. The children are considered consequences of immoral activities. In a socially conservative country, these fatherless children are noticeable in a rural province where few foreigners reside.
However, even if the biological father is interested in caring for the child it is difficult for them to obtain access. In Thailand, fathers who are not married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth do not have rights to the child unless the mother legitimizes the paternity through a filing at the local amphur or through a court judgement.Foreign biological fathers can be placed in the difficult position of marrying the mother or never being able to see their child.
When the mother refuses to allow the biological father access, the biological father mustfile a petition for legitimation thought a local family court. A court where proceedings are conducted in a foreign language with foreign laws. If the man is found to be the legitimate father of the child, the father is bound by law to provide for the child’s necessities and educational expenses.
As a parent, the father will have the right to make decisions for the best interests of the child including religion, education, residence, discipline, and employment. The court will also provide custody and child support orders as part of the judgment. However, this does not mean that the foreign biological father can take the child outside of Thailand without the mother’s consent. Passport offices require the consent of both parents for a child to apply for a passport or a government document stating that one parent has sole custody.
Many visitors come to Thailand to party, drink, and engage in debauchery. Short term relationships during holidays can lead to a life altering consequences such as unwanted children, broken families, and lifetime obligations. Travelers to Thailand should be cognizant of these issues when they enter into flings and protect themselves.
By Robert R. Virasin
Mr. Robert R. Virasin is a licensed U.S. Attorney and managing director of Virasin & Partners. He can be reached at www.virasin.com.