BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Nine surrogate babies believed to have been fathered by a Japanese man were found during a raid by police at a Bangkok condominium, amid fears that surrogacy may be misused for stem cells.
The latest discovery came amid the much-publicised case of baby Gammy involving a Thai surrogate mother and an Australian couple.
Former minister Paveen Hongsakul, who initiated the raid on Tuesday, feared that in the worst-case scenario this latest surrogacy scandal may be related to the potentially fatal extraction of foetal fluid to provide stem cells.
She also called on authorities to investigate a case related to a woman who said she was paid for surrogate pregnancy, but lost the baby seven months into her pregnancy. Ms Pavena, an advocate of women's and children's rights, wants investigators to find out if the foetus' spinal fluid was extracted for the manufacture of cosmetics.
As for the nine babies found in the Lat Phrao condo, Ms Pavena said most of them looked Caucasian, while only one had Asian features. The infants were between 15 and 50 days old.
She urged surrogate mothers to contact her foundation, the police, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry that she previously led or the Public Health Ministry for help.
The police are now taking action, with national police chief Pol General Aek Angsananont saying on Wednesday that DNA-based paternal checks were underway.
Shortly after the raid, lawyer Ratthaprathan Tulathorn contacted police and claimed he is representing a Japanese man. He said his client is the father of all the surrogate babies, Bangkok Post reported.
The surrogacy arrangements were legal and no women were forced to carry a child, he said. Mr Ratthaprathan provided information about the father, but claimed he had no details about the biological mothers, police said.
"If the Japanese man turns out to be the father of the babies, the question is why he wants so many babies," said Pol Gen Aek.
Meanwhile, police are questioning the seven nannies hired to take care of the infants. Another woman, who is six months into her pregnancy, is also being interviewed.
An official of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, who is part of the team investigating the latest case, said the nannies were hired for a monthly sum of 10,000 baht (S$388), while the pregnant woman said she was hired for 300,000 baht ($11,640) to give birth, Reuters reported. “We are looking for evidence to determine whether this surrogacy case is illegal,” said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Meanwhile, a senior physician specialising in fertility medicine has voiced his support for immediate verification of the nine babies' DNA.
Prof Dr Somboon Kunathikom, a former chairman of the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RTCOG), said the latest discovery was suspicious because usually children born through surrogacy are adopted almost immediately by couples who foot the hospital bills.
Hence, he said, relevant agencies had to work together to find out if surrogate children were actually being taken care of or exploited in different ways.
The nine babies are now in a Pakkred Babies' Home, a government home for children in Nonthaburi and will be kept there while police proceed with further investigation and DNA tests.