Police in three cities have netted a gang that allegedly arranged for Thais to serve as surrogate mothers for babies bound for China, seizing assets worth Bt100 million, the head of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division announced on Thursday (February 13).
Division commander Pol Maj General Worawat Watnakornbancha said nine suspects were arrested – a Chinese married couple, the man aged 37 and his wife, 48, who allegedly funded the surrogacy service, five Thai women ages 30-50 and two Thai men ages 40 and 48.
Officers armed with search warrants hit eight locations across Bangkok and houses in Pathum Thani and Sukhothai in the Thursday morning operation.
All suspects have been provisionally charged with conspiring to commit a transnational crime, to arrange surrogacy for commercial gain and to illegally advertise a surrogacy service.
Police also rounded up 22 surrogate mothers, seven of whom police then kept as witnesses, and two babies, one six months old and the other just 22 days old.
Worawat said a tip-off triggered the investigation in May last year. He alleged that the Chinese investors had Thai middlemen convince women who been surrogate mothers before to do so again, this time for Bt300,000-Bt450,000 per baby.
The surrogate mums were artificially inseminated or implanted with foetuses at clinics in Laos and Cambodia, then returned to Thailand for hospital prenuptial and birthing care.
Some of the women allegedly delivered in China, with all documents provided and expenses covered, and paid before returning to Thailand after month’s recovery.
Worawat said a shell company registered in 2012 served as cover for the surrogacy service, which involved at least 100 women across the country and produced at least 50 babies.
The locations in Bangkok included two houses on Soi Nak Niwat 37 and two on Soi Lat Phrao 94. The assets seized includes 16 cars, the two Lat Phrao houses worth Bt20 million and other valuables.
Seven of the surrogate mothers and the two babies at one of the Soi Nak Niwat houses.
Worawat said Chinese police had been contacted and more arrests could be expected.
Dr Thares Karasnairaviwong, head of the Health Ministry’s Department of Health Service Support, said his office had determined that seven of the 94 authorised fertility clinics it oversees nationwide were involved in this service and legal action would ensue.
Thailand banned surrogacy for commercial gain in 2015. The Assisted Reproductive Technology Act prohibits the use of surrogate mothers except for Thai couples or couples with one Thai spouse who have been legally married for at least three years and unable to achieve pregnancy naturally.
It is also illegal for middlemen of either gender to try and persuade women to nurture babies for others.