SURROGACY scandals still plague Thailand, despite the country having passed a strict law governing assisted reproductive technology |services.
On Thursday, Nithinon Srithaniyanan, 25, was arrested at the Thai - Lao Friendship Bridge checkpoint for allegedly trying to smuggle human semen out of Thailand.
Records show Nithinon had gone to both Laos and Cambodia several times since last July, raising speculation that the operators of some surrogacy services in Thailand might have tried to keep their businesses going by seeking to evade the new surrogacy law and exploiting legal loopholes in neighbouring countries.
Health Service Support Department director general Dr Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn said |yesterday that since Thailand’s Protection of Children Born from the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act took effect in 2015, not a single person or legal entity had been punished under the law.
“But we are now investigating the latest |scandal,” Thongchai said.
As of press time, laboratory tests were still being carried out to determine whether Nithinon was attempting to take human sperm out of Thailand on Thursday. The Bt200,000 fine imposed on Nithinon yesterday was under the customs law.
According to the Act, or “surrogacy law”, |offenders risk facing both a jail and a fine.
Doctors and agencies the offer commercial |surrogacy, surrogate mothers, and sperm or ovum or embryo sellers are all punishable under this law, if their cases go to court.
For example, a surrogate mothers risks facing up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to Bt200,000.
Statistics showed more than 2,000 foreign couples headed to Thailand each year for the services before the law took effect.
Thai authorities felt an acute need to pass the surrogacy law in 2015 in the wake of major scandals, which caught international attention.
In 2014, a Thai surrogate mother came forward after “Baby Gammy” was left behind with her. She said the Australian parents did not want “Baby Gammy” because he had Down’s Syndrome.
The case caused an uproar and now Thailand’s law bars couples seeking surrogacy services from abandoning their babies.
Later the same year, a Japanese businessman, Mitsutoki Shigeta, was found to have fathered more than 10 babies via surrogacy services in Bangkok. While the case sounded suspicious, he did not break any law and was granted sole custody of his children. Shigeta said he wanted a large family and hoped his many children would help take care of his business empire.
In 2015, another surrogacy scandal involved a Thai surrogate mother and a gay foreign couple who paid her for bearing one of their babies.
One of the legally-married spouses had to quit his job and stay in Thailand to fight for the custody of his baby girl, Carmen.
Last year, he was allowed to take Carmen back to his homeland as the court found Carmen’s biological father was fit to take care of her.
It is very likely that the surrogate mother violated the agreement with the foreign couple at the last minute because she wanted to keep the baby.
While Thailand’s surrogacy law hopes to prevent anyone from undergoing similar problems by stating that babies born from surrogacy services are legitimate children of the couple seeking the services, it also bars foreign couples from seeking surrogacy services in the country.