Source: The Nation
The recent arrest in Nong Khai of a man from Bangkok and six Thai women carrying an empty nitrogen tank and lab equipment while returning from Laos on Saturday evening shed light on a criminal conspiracy employing Thai women as surrogate mothers, 1st Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge checkpoint chief Nimit Saeng-amphai said on Sunday.
The arrest also prompted checkpoint personnel to increase searches of personal vehicles crossing the border, Nimit said, adding that he would tell border checkpoint staff at crossings into Laos and Cambodia to watch out for more suspects.
The Saturday arrest of the driver of a Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV, 47-year-old Nikhom Simarat, and six female passengers aged 25 to 34 was believed to be linked to a previous case, in which Nithinon Srithaniyanan, 25, was arrested on April 20 at the same checkpoint while he tried to smuggle six vials of sperm inside a nitrogen tank into Laos, Nimit said.
Following a one-hour interrogation session, Nikhom and the six women reportedly confessed to being hired by a 35-year-old Chinese man named Ran Zhao, who resides in Bangkok. Nikhom and the women crossed the border on May 17 so the women could be implanted with embryos at a clinic in Vientiane, but failed physical examinations or unspecified other issues caused the cancellation of the fertilisation procedures.
Nimit said a notebook retrieved from the group showed the results of embryo implants for seven other women, which would be passed on to the Crime Suppression Division to be used as evidence in prosecutions. Nimit said the conspiracy had recruited healthy Thai women who already had husbands and children to serve as surrogate mothers for fees ranging from Bt100,000 to Bt400,000.
Officials fined Nikhom BT89,880 for a Customs violation and then released all seven on the grounds that they had merely been hired to commit a crime but had not yet done so. The technology-assisted fertilisation act bans the export of human sperm, eggs and foetuses.
Nimit said Nikhom’s car had been in and out of the country six times before the arrest, which corresponded with information found in the notebook about fertilisation results.
A 34-year-old Nakhon Phanom woman whose name was withheld said she and her husband agreed for her to take the surrogacy job for Bt300,000 to be paid after the birth. She added that she had taken supplements for 10 days prior to the trip to Laos.