Thai surrogacy smuggling bust: Man nabbed for transporting frozen semen into Laos. Arrest shines a light on an underground surrogacy trade that is also linked to Chinese mafia syndicates. In 2015, Thailand like many other countries outlawed commercial surrogacy and provided a very narrow legal basis for the procedure.

An arrest on Friday of a 33-year-old man for transporting semen across the border into Laos has shone a light on Thailand’s underground surrogacy operations linked with Chinese underworld groups and the use of Laos as a base. A briefing was given by a senior officer of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) following the arrest of Mr Theeraphong Chaisuk outside his home.

Police officers with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) arrested 33-year-old Mr Theeraphong Chaisuk outside his home in the Mueang district of Nonthaburi on Friday. He was detained on foot of a 2022 arrest warrant linked to an incident in 2017 on the Thai Laos border.

A media briefing by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) on Saturday revealed an elaborate network exporting human semen from Thailand.

It is understood to be part of an elaborate racket creating babies using trafficked women in Laos and Cambodia.

At length, Chinese mafia groups are involved with the result being babies born in Thailand and granted Thai citizenship. Police have been investigating the illegal scheme since 2017.

Man arrested on a 2022 warrant relating to an incident in 2017 on the border between Thailand and Laos. At length, he admits his involvement in surrogacy

On Friday, an alleged key player in the conspiracy was finally taken down by police.

The man identified as Theeraphong Chaisuk, 33, was apprehended in Nonthaburi by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD). He was wanted on foot of a warrant relating to allegations of participating in a transnational surrogacy network.

Mr Theeraphong was taken into custody by CSD officers in Tha Sai located in the Mueang district in Nonthaburi. Officers intercepted him as he was leaving his home.

The arrest follows a warrant issued by the Criminal Court in April 2022. CSD commander Police Major General Montree Theskhan briefed reporters on Mr Theeraphong’s alleged role in the underground surrogacy plot.

He stands accused of soliciting individuals to transport prohibited items, namely human semen, eggs, or embryos, across international borders.

Frozen semen in vials concealed in a tank of nitrogen

The investigation leading to Mr Theeraphong’s arrest commenced in 2017.

This followed an incident at the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai. At that time, customs officials intercepted an individual attempting to smuggle frozen human semen into Laos.

The organic bodily fluid containing sperm for human reproduction was discovered concealed within a small tank of nitrogen. Six vials of frozen semen were found. 

Subsequent enquiries uncovered a sophisticated criminal network involving Chinese nationals. The gang recruited couriers to transport human semen to clinics in Laos and Cambodia for surrogacy purposes.

Police Major General Montree emphasised the flagrant motives behind the smuggling operation.

The senior policeman disclosed: ‘Those involved wanted babies to have the nationalities of the surrogate mothers for legal purposes that would be used as a mechanism for laundering money for Chinese nationals running grey businesses.’

The police chief said women from Laos and Cambodia were paid to act as surrogates. In the meantime, the babies, when born, were used to help launder large amounts of dirty money for Chinese mafia syndicates.

Arrested man seen by investigators as a key figure in the underworld surrogacy scheme. However, he claims only to have been a mule in the surrogacy trade

Further investigation by the authorities implicated Mr Theeraphong. 

Unquestionably, according to police, he is alleged to be a key figure in the illicit scheme. During interrogation, Mr Theeraphong confessed to overseeing the delivery of semen to clinics in Laos and Cambodia between 2014 and 2017.

He claimed to have transported approximately 100 vials of semen per delivery, earning ฿16,000 for each consignment. He denied being a key player.

The arrested man explained the rationale behind those operating surrogacy services from neighbouring countries.

Mr Theeraphong cited the stringent regulations and high costs associated with obtaining permits in Thailand. 

Thailand tightened its surrogacy laws in 2015 to outlaw all commercial surrogacy and a more liberal regime opening up. It was rushed through by the junta

Nine years ago, Thailand tightened its laws effectively stifling a lucrative surrogacy trade in the kingdom.

The country’s burgeoning medical care industry, legal uncertainty and international demand threatened to make Thailand a hub for the trade.

In contrast, traditional and conservative Thai sensibilities were highly offended by the development. The then-junta government rushed to introduce legislation.

This arose with a trend among foreigners using Thai women as surrogate mothers.

Since then, underworld networks offered by Chinese entrepreneurs moved in. These have sometimes come to light during police human trafficking investigations.

In April 2023, Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn revealed the extraordinary case of Chinese matriarch Ms Navaporn Phakiatsakul.

The Chinese woman who obtained Thai citizenship in 1992. At length, she had built a successful business empire, much of it legitimately, estimated at billions of baht.

She was arrested by police on April 8th 2023 at a building on Silom Road in Bangkok.

A Bangkok Chinese matriarch who made a fortune. Arrested in April 2023 at a Silom address being used by 26 women at a local registry office in the capital

In turn, this was linked to an extensive transnational surrogacy operation. 26 women had been using her building as an address at a local registry office in Bangkok.

However, police initially only charged her with providing false information. The complexity of her business dealings, much of it above board and involving her upstanding Thai children, necessitated this.  

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Despite a forensic examination of her affairs, police surmised her activities were linked to Chinese couples seeking to have babies.

Accused man criticises Thailand surrogacy laws

On Friday, the accused man, Mr Theeraphon, noted that neighbouring countries offered more favourable legal environments and cost-effective alternatives.

In light of Mr Theeraphong’s admissions, he was placed in police custody pending further legal proceedings.

The arrest underlines the complexities and ethical dilemmas surrounding surrogacy in Thailand. In particular, when exploited for illicit gain.

However, it comes as Thailand, like many other countries, is experiencing an acute population crisis.

Similarly, the legal environment for surrogacy in Western countries has also created a new demand for such services. Surrogacy for instance for LGBTQ couples or altruistic reasons is increasingly being campaigned for.

By 2074, Thailand’s population will fall to 30 million people even based on the current birth rate which is still falling

At the same time, commercial surrogacy has been outlawed in most countries.

This includes Spain, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Brazil, Britain and Australia. France prohibits surrogacy outright as does China.

Russia and key US states see surrogacy as a moral issue and have specifically outlawed it in any form while most countries outlaw commercial surrogacy

Meanwhile, Russia and certain US states specifically outlaw and penalise all forms of surrogacy. For these territories, it is seen as a moral imperative.

In contrast, there are some countries where the law is simply uncertain. Others such as Laos where the environment, is still ambiguous, are more supportive.

In Thailand, under very limited and controlled circumstances, surrogacy arrangements are legal.

Significantly, the 2015 law in Thailand outlawed all forms of commercial surrogacy.

This especially included the sale of sperm or eggs for human reproduction. The law explicitly applied to all Thai citizens in addition to foreigners.

Nevertheless, surrogacy procedures are allowed for couples in Thailand for altruistic purposes. This is where a couple desperately wishes to have a child.

Narrow basis where surrogacy is allowed in Thailand

One of the couple’s members must be a Thai citizen. They must be married for at least three years.

Moreover, the surrogate mother must be a sibling of one member of the couple. Furthermore, she must have obtained her husband’s consent to the surrogacy operation.

In the meantime, the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) investigation into the transnational surrogacy network remains ongoing.

On Saturday, police expressed a determination to arrest everyone involved in the unlawful trafficking of human reproductive materials.

As this case unfolds, it undoubtedly raises questions about the adequacy of existing laws governing assisted reproductive technologies.

It also points to the need for enhanced international dialogue on this issue while simultaneously cracking down on abusive criminal exploits.

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