02/16/2022, 16.43
THAILAND
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Thai police looking into trafficking in children born from surrogate mothers

by Steve Suwannarat

A baby girl who recently disappeared from a kindergarten could be the victim of a criminal organisation that illegally sends children abroad. A woman can get up to US$ 15,500 per pregnancy. Higher demand could see existing legislation revised to allow the practice under certain conditions.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thai investigators are looking into the case of a one-year-old girl who disappeared from a Bangkok kindergarten, possibly taken abroad by a criminal gang that uses nurseries and domestic workers placement as a cover to engage in trafficking of minors born to Thai surrogate mothers.

Investigations have found so far that in Nongkhai, a city on the border with Laos, at least 20 children have been given to foreigners by a hardened group with branches in several other Thai cities.

Despite a recent law meant to crack down on the practice, Thailand’s Department for Special Investigations (DSI) reported that at least 300 children and babies were taken out of the country illegally in 2020.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and border closure, a large number of children born to surrogate mothers were placed in kindergarten amenable to cooperate with traffickers or set for the purpose of eventually shipping babies abroad.

For a long time, police have been aware that transnational organisations involved in the illegal promotion of surrogacy are active in various Thai regions, starting in the north-east, which is poorer, densely populated and close to the borders with Cambodia, Laos and China. In fact, the main beneficiaries of this trade are Chinese.

In the recent past, Thailand has played a key role in surrogacy in Southeast Asia, which is now found elsewhere as well.

Women willing to have a child on commission are offered up to half a million baht (around US$ 15,500) per child, a sum that increases in the case of twins.

At least 500 children born to surrogate mothers were given to adoptive parents since the approval of the Protection of Children Born from Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act (ART Act) in 2015.

The law allows the practice only in the case of the mother’s proven infertility, within a narrow parental circle, without any exchange of money, by women who already have children and with the husband’s consent.

Still, the demand for local surrogate mothers remains high in Thailand. As a result, lawmakers may re-evaluate the law in view of the situation of persistent illegality, high demand and the need of many women to earn income legally.

Over the new two months in fact, legislators could review and possibly relax the law in order to enable foreigners to have babies through legal surrogacy.

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Calcutta, thousands of mothers and pregnant women march for right to maternity benefits (Photos)
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