Surrogacy services are new to the country. On facility that was shut down offered "consulting services" to sterile couples and pregnant women. The authorities uncovered transborder trafficking. Although the law does not allow the sale of human organs and cell tissues, it does not restrict uterus renting. Thailand and Cambodia have taken step to ban illegal surrogacy.
Vientiane (AsiaNews / RFA) – Laotian authorities have ordered a clinic in the capital Vientiane to shut down amid indications that it was using Thai women to provide illegal surrogacy services to infertile couples, an official from the Lao Ministry of Public Health said.
The move comes amid signs that a commercial surrogacy industry is growing in the small impoverished Southeast Asian nation.
The facility was shut down on 24 May after the relevant authorities checked it and discovered that it was operating without a permit from the ministry.
The clinic, which offers “consulting services” to well-off infertile couples and pregnant women, is now being investigated by anti-human trafficking police.
The relevant agencies could not determine if the clinic, located in a house along the Kamphaeng-Meuang road in Nonghay village in Vientiane’s Hadshaiyfong district, had definitely been providing surrogacy services supplied by Thai women, as suspected by Thai officials at a nearby border checkpoint.
Vientiane’s public health department, however, had already reported the problem to the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Public Security and passed the case to the anti-human trafficking police.
Ministry of Public Health regulations do not allow the sale of human organs and human cell tissue, but surrogacy agencies and fertility clinic have recently started operating in the landlocked country.
Although Laos has no laws or restrictions pertaining to surrogacy services, neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia have taken measures to eliminate illegal surrogacy amid growing concern over the exploitation of women who serve as surrogate mothers.
Thailand passed a law in 2015 banning foreigners from hiring Thai women as surrogates after high-profile cases sparked debate the previous year. Anyone found guilty of paying surrogates in Thailand can receive a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
In November 2016, Cambodia banned surrogacy arrangements. But four months later, the Foreign Ministry said the government was preparing to draft a new law to make surrogacy legal.
Thai authorities at the Vientiane-Nongkhai border checkpoint first became suspicious that the Vientiane clinic was providing cross-border surrogacy services after they arrested a 25-year-old Thai man for smuggling human sperm into Laos in April.
This led to the discovery of trafficking in sperm, human eggs, and surrogate mothers in Laos through the aforementioned clinic.
For Laotian police, surrogacy services are a new phenomenon in Laos. Pending new legislation to define the procedure, the Health Ministry will continue to ban the practice. It also announced plans to set up a specific unit to stop clinics and agencies from offering surrogacy services.