Eight more suspects sought in wombs-for-hire scandal

Eight more suspects sought in wombs-for-hire scandal

The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division is seeking arrest warrants for an additional eight suspects in an illegal transnational commercial surrogacy ring busted on Thursday, said Pol Maj Gen Worawat Watnakhonbancha, chief of the division yesterday.

Two of the new suspects are Chinese nationals and the rest are Thais, he added.

"Two Chinese suspects were hired to take surrogate mothers to give birth in another country, while the Thai suspects brokered surrogacy and arranged travel documents for the surrogate mothers," Pol Maj Gen Worawat told media in a press briefing yesterday.

On Thursday, nine suspects -- seven Thais and two Chinese nationals -- were arrested in joint raids carried out in Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Sukhothai.

The raids came after a police investigation found a gang of Chinese nationals was hiring Thai women as surrogate mothers.

The illegal surrogacy operation is believed to have started in 2012.

Police discovered the surrogacy syndicate was operated by Chinese people who hired Thai brokers to lure Thai women to work as surrogate mothers for 300,000-450,000 baht per pregnancy.

The surrogate mothers reportedly travelled to neighbouring countries for assisted reproductive treatment and returned to Thailand where they stayed until delivery.

In some cases, the surrogate mothers were sent to China, where they stayed until they gave birth.

The arrested Chinese suspects denied any wrongdoing and insisted on their claims that they were in Thailand for a test tube baby service, said Maj Gen Worawat.

Another suspect -- a Chinese national who was believed to be involved in the same surrogacy gang, was arrested on April 30 last year and is now being detained in a foreign country.

Police, however, insist they have evidence to have the suspect prosecuted for involvement in the transnational surrogacy gang.

The three Thais were charged for colluding with a transnational criminal association, arranging illegal commercial surrogacy and advertising an illegal surrogacy broker service.

All seven surrogate mothers arrested on Thursday have yet to be charged and are currently under the care of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

Some of the arrested surrogate mothers will likely be treated as witnesses in the ongoing investigation.

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