Thailand says it is probing illegal surrogate births for Chinese customers after a series of raids this week.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered the police to find infants born under the surrogacy operation and probe any involvement of trafficking gangs.
“He’s concerned that the babies could be in the hands of human organ-selling gangs,” said Police Major General Torsak Sukvimol of the Central Investigation Bureau.
The Chinese suspects reportedly denied any wrongdoing and said they were in Thailand for a “test-tube baby service”.
He said the investigation found the Chinese suspect had run a firm as a front to hire Thai women. At least 100 women had been hired as surrogate mothers, he told the media.
More than 200 police and other agency staff were reportedly involved.
The police performed 10 raids in Bangkok and two provinces and arrested two Chinese citizens and six Thais. Five Thai surrogate mothers and a Chinese man were arrested at a large house in Bangkok.
The police said at least 50 babies born to surrogate mothers had been taken out of Thailand.
Commercial surrogacy for foreigners in 2015 was banned while the country was under the control of the military junta.
A Chinese couple, Ran Zhao, 37, and his wife Su Yingting, 48, were charged with working with cross-border crime organisations, providing commercial surrogacy services and recruiting women to work as surrogates.
The surrogate mothers arrested this week have yet to be charged and some of them are expected to be treated as witnesses in the ongoing investigation.
Assets including 16 vehicles, a house and firm in Lat Phrao worth about Bt20 million (US$640,000) were seized, said Torsak.
The gang had other assets worth approximately Bt100 million, which would be assessed by the authorities, Torsak added.
Under the 2015 Protection of Children Born from Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act, anyone involved in commercial surrogacy can be jailed for up to 10 years.
The police commander said the raids found eight surrogate mothers, a newborn baby and a four-month-old infant.
Torsak said a baby had been born in Thailand because the coronavirus stopped the surrogate mother from flying to China to give birth.
The officer said the 2015 law meant that embryos were now often implanted in Thai women in Laos and Cambodia. The pregnant surrogate women then returned to Thailand before flying to China in the eighth month of pregnancy. Before the law, the whole process was conducted in Thailand.
Torsak said a surrogate mother would be paid approximately Bt300,000-400,000 (US$9,600-12,800) to give birth and Bt500,000-600,000 (US$16,000-19,200) for twins.
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