FIVE women paid to be surrogate mothers were among seven Thais and two Chinese nationals arrested in raids on a transnational commercial surrogacy ring.
According to the Bangkok Post, more than 200 police and officials were involved in the operation targeting 10 premises in Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Sukhothai provinces.
The raids came after a police probe found a gang of Chinese nationals hiring Thai women as surrogate mothers. The criminal court issued warrants for their arrests in January.
The Thai suspects were between 30 and 50 years old while the Chinese suspects were between 37 and 48 years. A 10th suspect remains at large.
They face charges of colluding in transnational criminal activities and engaging in commercial surrogacy, which is illegal under Thai law.
Deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau police Major General Torsak Sukvimol said the probe followed a tip-off from the Health Service Support Department about a transnational commercial surrogacy operation.
The ring was run by Chinese nationals who hired brokers to lure women to work as surrogate mothers for between 300,000 and 450,000 baht per pregnancy. Twins would incur extra pay.
However when Thailand’s Protection of Children Born from Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act 2015 took effect and outlawed surrogacy, the syndicate changed tactics.
It arranged for the women they hired to be impregnated with donor sperm in a neighbouring country, and then returned to Thailand.
When they were due, the women were flown to China to give birth there and came back to Thailand alone, while the babies were taken by the syndicate.
Police said they would work with Chinese authorities in finding the whereabouts of the babies.
They also questioned women in Pathum Thani who were hired as surrogates, and found that 15 babies born from assisted reproductive technologies were included in their household registration.
Torsak said assets seized from the nine suspects included 16 vehicles with a combined value of 15 million baht and a house.