The Covid-19 outbreak has left many newborn babies of illegal surrogate mothers stranded in Thailand because of international travel bans.
"Many babies from commercial surrogate mothers could not be given to the clients due to the Covid-19 travel ban in many countries," Dr Akom Praditsuwan, the Department of Health Service Support (HSSD), said yesterday.
Dr Akom said the babies were now being cared for by officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security as police and other agencies tried to track down all those complicit in the illegal business to charge them with human trafficking.
He said that since travel bans were imposed due to the pandemic, many women suspected of being surrogate mothers had gone to hospitals asking for medical treatment.
"Some babies appear to be pure Caucasian and tests have shown that the woman's DNA doesn't match the baby at all," said Dr Akom, adding it was telltale clues like that which prompted police and other officials to launch an investigation.
He said police had gathered plenty of evidence and expected to make arrests soon.
Thai law only permits surrogacy for Thai couples with a legal marriage certificate or Thai women who have been legally married to a foreigner for more than three years.
The current law -- the Protection of a Child Born by Medical Technology Act 2015 -- also requires that the surrogate mother be related to the mother, that the surrogate mother must have had a baby before and must have her husband's permission to carry the child.
The law bans single women from taking part in surrogacy and every case must be approved by a state committee.
Anyone found guilty of participating in commercial surrogacy can be jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined up to 200,000 baht.
Anyone who buys or sells a man's sperm, a woman's eggs or a foetus can be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to 60,000 baht.
HSSD chief Dr Tares Krassanairawiwong said Thailand was one of the top destinations for the surrogacy business due to its high rate (46%) of successful surrogate pregnancies.
He added that his department had a special team working on the case.
Dr Tares said Covid-19 had prevented many surrogate mothers from going abroad to deliver a child and were at a loss what to do -- some just left them at local hospitals.