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Vietnamese women lured to be surrogate mothers in Thailand


A Vietnamese surrogate mother taken from a hospital to the Kretrakarn Home, a center for trafficked returnees in Bangkok

When an acquaintance told 19-year-old P. of Bac Lieu Province in the Mekong Delta last year that she could work as a housekeeper in Thailand for a high salary, she jumped at the chance.

Eager to earn more money and help her poor family, she quit her job at a café and contacted the number of a woman she was told would give her instructions on getting the job.

After arriving in Bangkok, she was taken to a house in a suburban area where she found a very different job waiting for her.

She was to be a surrogate mother and would be paid US$5,000 for the service.

P. said she was taken to a hospital where doctors transferred fertile ovum into her body and gave her some medicine. She pretended to agree but didn't take the medicine. She did not become pregnant.

"I couldn't imagine that they wanted me to get pregnant for other people," P. said.

Another woman from the Delta, 27-year-old H., also arrived in Thailand last November to serve as a surrogate mother.

H. said she and other Vietnamese women had been placed under "house arrest," but she and three others managed to inform the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand of their plight, and the latter tipped off local police who conducted a raid of two homes last week.

The raid on February 23 in a Bangkok suburb turned up 15 Vietnamese women, including P. and H., all victims of an illegal surrogacy service in Thailand providing babies for couples overseas.

Col. Chalermpol Jintarat of Thailand's immigration department said on Monday (February 28) that the 15 women, seven of them pregnant and two with newborn babies, will be sent back to Vietnam.

"They will not be charged because they are victims of human trafficking. We will clear up their overstay charges and help them until they are back home," AFP cited him as saying.

Thailand's public health ministry said the Vietnamese embassy would assist with the women's return and that a nongovernmental organization will bear the costs, AFP reported.

It said further that in Thailand it is illegal for a woman to act as a surrogate mother except for a blood relative, or to be paid to carry another person's child.

Thai Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has described the gang, which operated under the name Baby 101, as "illegal and inhuman."

Police have arrested four Taiwanese, one Chinese and three Myanmar nationals in connection with the operation. Among them is a 35-year-old Taiwanese woman, who police said ran the operation.

The Thai health ministry said that the operators of the surrogacy ring would be charged with human trafficking and detention, while any doctors and hospitals involved could also face prosecution.

Tricked, voluntary

Four of the women said they were tricked while nine others admitted they'd volunteered to be surrogate moms for money. The "company" had also promised to pay an extra $2,000 if they give birth to twins.

Among those who claimed to have been cheated is H., 23, of Bac Lieu Province. She said she came to Thailand in September after a local told her about a Chinese woman who could help her find a good job abroad.

H. said she'd only contacted the Chinese woman on the phone. Only after she was taken to the house in Bangkok did she learn that her job was to be surrogate mother, she told Thanh Nien.

Twenty-three-year-old N., however, said she was well aware of her future job in Thailand. She said the child she gave birth to was one month old and about to be handed over to the couple when the raid happened. N. also said she had managed to see the picture of the father in his passport. He was a 30-year-old Taiwanese, she said.

One of the women admitted that it was the second time she had gone to Thailand to be a surrogate mother, but did not say when the first time was.

Police said Baby 101 received orders by email or via agents from childless couples, and in some instances, the male partner would provide the sperm to inseminate the women.

Nearly 40 women, identified only by a numbered code, are pictured in various poses on the website, www.baby-1001.com. No information has been made available about the identities of these women.

The surrogacy service, which covers egg and sperm donation to the delivery of a baby, is advertised on the site for $32,000 plus other expenses.

It appears to be aimed at Taiwanese customers and says that because running a commercial surrogacy business in that territory is illegal, it offers the service in other locations.

The website says, in broken English, that Thai women are not used as surrogates and that "the protection of the law is absolutely."

It says where the women live "there are security lookout in every entrance, severely control the person and vehicles that pass in and out to the community, the guards routinely patrol around 24 hours a day all year."

Pictures of pregnant women in the house are also shown.

The company describes itself as "eugenics surrogate" and promises no "connection between consignor (client) and surrogate mother."

"We could create the finest procreation condition for your baby, mainly through the efficient embryo refining, only the superior left for implanting."

While the investigations into the surrogacy racket continues, an uncertain future awaits Vietnamese women and babies who have been rescued, and the babies who are yet to be delivered.

An expert with Save The Children UK said if the children had been born in Thailand, they would be taken to orphanages there, because the surrogate mothers are not seen as biological parents.

Bui Dinh Cham, counselor of the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand, said that the fate of the babies should be decided in Vietnam when they return. The parents can come to Vietnam to receive their babies, he said.

So far, none of the couples who used the illegal surrogacy services have been contacted.

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