Depts to work on surrogacy
Law changes needed to reflect new reality
The Department of Health Service Support (DHSS) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) are working together to suppress illegal surrogacy in order to change the country's sullied reputation as a hub for illegal fertility treatments.
The two agencies on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the DHSS's headquarters to boost cooperation on matters relating to illegal surrogacy.
The agencies will focus more on information sharing, as this could help speed up investigations into suspected cases of illegal commercial surrogacy.
DSI director-general Dr Triyarith Temahivong said this is usually associated with international criminal networks, describing it as bordering on human trafficking.
As a result, the DSI has full authority to take action against those who are allegedly involved in such networks, he said.
"Thailand is known as a hub for illegal surrogacy for Asian couples, who make up the majority of the 'clients' here. We need to work together to rein in the problem without sweeping it under the rug," he said.
He said the DSI is investigating two illegal surrogacy cases, though he did not go into details.
Many surrogates could not deliver their babies abroad due to border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in some of the children being born and abandoned in Thailand.
According to the DSI, at least 19 children have been born in the kingdom via illegal surrogacy, though authorities suspect the true number is far higher. The children are currently cared for under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security's care.
Meanwhile, Dr Tares Krassna- irawiwong, chief of the DHSS, said the department is considering whether to allow foreign couples to engage surrogates in Thailand.
"Infertility is a known medical condition and Thailand has advanced knowledge on fertility technology. As such, the law needs to be adjusted to reflect the current reality, which may include allowing Thai women to become surrogates for foreign couples," he said.
According to the department, while there are about 20,000 patients who have sought in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), only 584 resorted to legal surrogacy. At present, Thai laws only permit relatives of the patient to become a surrogate.