A mother who abducted her three children from Thailand has until August 20 to send them back after the Supreme Court of Appeal rejected her last-ditch bid to keep them in Cape Town.
The SA woman has spent two years trying to keep her 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old twins — a boy and a girl — away from their British father, who lives in Thailand.
In July 2019, a month after they divorced, she took the children to a remote area of Thailand and prevented their father seeing them.
Six months later, after being summonsed to appear in the Bangkok family court by her husband, she fled with the children to SA.
This week, five appeal judges confirmed a Cape Town high court ruling that the children must be returned to Thailand under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Dismissing the mother’s application for leave to appeal, Judge Halima Saldulker said she and her colleagues could not fault the high court ruling last October by Judge Siraj Desai.
She agreed with Desai that the mother had failed to substantiate her allegations that her ex-husband sexually molested the eldest daughter.
The woman also claimed her ex-husband subjected her to domestic violence and economic abuse, which left the children fearful of their father and reluctant to have contact with him.
Saldulker said Desai’s detailed order was clearly designed to safeguard the children. It said they could live with their mother, provide psychologists and therapists and ensured financial support by their father.
Custody, maintenance and visiting rights agreed to when the parents divorced would continue in terms of Desai’s ruling, said Saldulker.
“In this way the high court has ameliorated the potential hardships [the mother and children] might be exposed to on their return,” she said.
“There is nothing to prevent the applicant, upon her return to Thailand, from contacting the appropriate Thai authorities and requesting them to once again investigate the allegations of sexual molestation.
“Thailand, the state of habitual residence, is best placed to investigate such serious allegations. The Thai authorities, including child and social services, are competent and capable of investigating any allegations of sexual abuse.”
Saldulker said the mother had previously “successfully thwarted” her ex-husband’s attempts to see their children, and there was nothing to stop her asking a Thai court to protect the children from their father pending such an investigation.
The judge added: “Parents have a responsibility to their children to allow the law to take its course and not to attempt to resolve their disputes by resorting to self-help.
“Any attempt to do so inevitably increases the tension between the parents and that regrettably adds to the suffering of the children.”
Saldulker said the court had noted the ex-husband’s undertaking that he would not institute or support any criminal proceedings against the mother relating to the children’s abduction from Thailand.
The warring parents married in the US in 2007 and lived in SA, the UK and Singapore before moving to Thailand.