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Surrogacy agents have caught the attention of authorities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai where its believed ethnic women have been paid to serve as surrogates for couples in China.
The Judicial Commission and the Attorney General’s Office (OAG) have been notified of these suspected crimes, but there is still insufficient evidence to identify the person who created them.
It was reported that a surrogacy agent hired ethnic women aged 25-35 years old because of their perceived good health and preferred those who were already married to avoid suspicions related to their pregnancies. In order to avoid being traced, the network switched to cash payments from bank transactions.
Local police notified the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) after finding a missing baby was likely the victim of a transnational surrogacy ring operating in the Central, North, and Northeast regions.
A one-year-old toddler named Thaenthai mysteriously disappeared from GS Kik nursery in Bangkok, it soon became apparent that this case had a dark side.
DSI sources say some surrogacy syndicates use nurseries and maid services as fronts to snare children from mothers who are susceptible to cash incentives offered by wealthy foreign customers, especially Chinese couples.
Surrogacy is highly restricted in Thailand
According to the DSI, commercial surrogacy is illegal under the Protection of Children Born Through Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act. The only exchange of guardianship that is legal is between a mother and a member of her family. The husband must also agree, as payment for the service is also prohibited.
In 2020, the DSI found that up to 300 babies had been smuggled out of the country before the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the border was closed, Thai nurseries have been caring for young children who were supposed to be sent abroad before their illegal separation from their parents.
The Department of Health Service Support (DHSS) is also working with the DSI to distinguish these illegal surrogacy rings from legitimate childcare businesses.
When police searched for the whereabouts of Thaenthai, they discovered a nursery in the Phon Phisai district of Nong Khai. Police found two babies believed to have been born to paid surrogate mothers after raiding the premises.
Moreover, police discovered a bank book in which about 20 surrogate mothers had been hired by an agent, with the women being paid 450,001 – 500,000 baht for each baby they delivered. The women also received a bonus for twins and prenatal payments to cover their medical expenses.
Although police have expanded their search, they have not been able to find baby Thaenthai or even determine whether he is still in Thailand. In addition to nurseries, maid businesses, and social media accounts, police are also investigating these rings’ commercial surrogacy operations.
Police have discovered evidence of payments to women in various provinces, including Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Bueng Kan, Nong Khai, Nakhon Sawan, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi and Bangkok.
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