Surrogate moms to give birth in Thailand

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The Mekong Delta families whose daughters became surrogate mothers in Thailand believe their daughters are working in Ho Chi Minh City.

Authorities in Thailand have canceled a plan to send 15 Vietnamese women back home, citing an ongoing investigation into an illegal surrogacy operation in Thailand.

Seven of the women are pregnant and will give birth in Thailand, instead of in Vietnam as previously planned, Pham Minh Tuan, first secretary of the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand told Thanh Nien on Wednesday (March 9).

Last month, Thai police raided two houses in a Bangkok suburb and discovered 15 Vietnamese women, all of whom had been enlisted into an illegal surrogacy service. The women, including two who had already given birth, were taken to the Kredtrakarn Center (a shelter for trafficked women) in Nonthaburi.

Four of the women insist they were tricked into surrogacy and held against their will. The 11 others said they willingly travelled to Thailand to work as surrogate mothers, last year.

The pregnant mothers wish to give birth. They said they only agree to hand their babies to their biological parents if they agree to pay compensation.

Four Taiwanese, one Chinese and three Myanmar nationals were arrested in connection with the operation. Among them is a 35-year-old Taiwanese woman, whom police say ran the operation.

Tuan, the Vietnamese embassy official, said that Thai authorities have altered their plans to repatriate the expecting mothers because their investigation into the doctors and hospitals in Bangkok that were implicated in the operation is still underway.

Thai media sources reported that at least two doctors and two hospitals are currently under investigation in connection with the case.

A source from the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand told Thanh Nien that most of the Vietnamese women are serving as surrogate mothers for Taiwanese couples. These couples allegedly asked to receive their babies in Thailand because they thought that the procedures there would be easier than those in Vietnam, the source said.

A specific date to send the women home has not yet been announced.

The Vietnamese Women's Association has instructed its agencies in Mekong Delta provinces to prepare to support the women when they return. Several shelters in Hanoi, HCMC and Can Tho have also offered them a place to stay.

From poverty

All 15 women came from the Mekong Delta provinces.

Most of them asked that their fate be kept from their families, fearing that the news would upset them and subject them to shame.

Meanwhile, many of these parents believe that their children are working in Ho Chi Minh City, the Phu Nu (Women) newspaper reported on Wednesday (March 9).

The family of 19-year-old P., one of the surrogate mothers, lives in a charity house donated by the local authorities of a poor coastal neighborhood in Bac Lieu Province's Vinh Trach Dong Commune.

They earn a meager living from catching fish.

"Someone told me that she had been sent abroad to work," said P.'s mother. "She didn't tell us anything. She just said she had tried to find a job in Saigon [HCMC] and sent money home some times," she was quoted by Phu Nu as saying.

The family of 26-year-old H. from Bac Lieu Province's Gia Rai Town knew nothing about their daughter's situation.

H.'s mother says she had no idea why H. hadn't phoned home for several months.

"My husband is very weak and can't work," she said. "I earn a little money from washing clothes for others. H. is illiterate but tried to work in Saigon [the former name of HCMC] in the hopes of paying off the family's debt."

Surrogacy law

Attorney Nguyen Thanh Cong said that the babies will be considered the children of the Vietnamese mothers.

Under Vietnamese Nationality Law, children born to a single Vietnamese parent are granted Vietnamese citizenship.

It is not easy for the mothers to abandon these children because Vietnamese Civil Law stipulates that every parent has a responsibility to rear and take care for their children.

Surrogate motherhood is illegal in Vietnam but the crime only carries fines of between VND20 million (US$958) and VND30 million ($1,436), he said. Participation in illegal surrogacy does not exempt a parent from their rights and responsibilities to the child.

In the event of a custody dispute, Cong believes that the court would certainly side with the Vietnamese mother.

However, Cong raised questions regarding possible inheritance disputes because many countries, including Vietnam, recognize family relations via DNA testing.

In Thailand, all of the trafficked mothers say they want to return home soon.

However, they say they'll need support for their newborn babies as they are not able to work at the moment.

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