Thai surrogate Pattaramon Janbua holds baby Gammy's hand at a hospital in Chonburi province in Thailand on August 4, 2014. Picture: Rungroj Yongrit

Bangkok - Thailand's military government gave preliminary approval on Wednesday for a draft law to make commercial surrogacy a criminal offence, following a spate of dramatic surrogacy scandals in the past two weeks.

The case of an Australian couple accused of abandoning their Down syndrome son with his Thai surrogate mother unleashed an international outcry over the “wombs for hire” business that rights groups say preys on poor and vulnerable women in countries such as India and Thailand.

“The NCPO has approved a surrogacy draft law,” Pattamaporn Rattanadilok na Phuket, a spokeswoman for the military government, officially known as the National Council for Peace and Order, told reporters on Wednesday.

“We will punish through criminal law those who practice and are involved in commercial surrogacy,” the spokeswoman added. “Those who hire surrogate mothers or make this a commercial business will be violating criminal law.”

The law is awaiting final approval from the National Legislative Assembly and would then have to be formally endorsed by Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It is unclear how long final approval will take.

Thailand's army seized power in May after months of street protests. The junta has ordered a nationwide probe into the country's shadowy surrogacy industry. - Reuters