Thai clinic denies role in sperm smuggling case

Dr Piyaphan Punyatanasakchai (right) said that her clinic had only conducted blood and sperm tests for the two foreigners linked to the smuggling case.
Dr Piyaphan Punyatanasakchai (right) said that her clinic had only conducted blood and sperm tests for the two foreigners linked to the smuggling case. PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP) - A Bangkok fertility clinic has denied playing a role in a case involving the attempted smuggling of sperm out of Thailand.

Dr Piyaphan Punyatanasakchai, who works at the Jetanin Institute for Assisted Reproduction in Bangkok said on Monday (April 24) that her clinic had only conducted blood and sperm tests for a Vietnamese man and a Chinese man who have been linked to the smuggling case.

"A Vietnamese (man) consulted us about infertility problems and has had his sperm checked. He only took test results with him, not sperm," she said.

Dr Piyaphan said another clinic also sent in blood samples for tests, and the blood belonged to a Chinese man. "We don't know what they did later," she said, as a team from the Health Service Support Department (HSSD) dropped by to check.

Dr Piyaphan said her clinic had also lodged a complaint with police against a person who linked its name to the sperm-smuggling scandal.

Last week, a man was arrested in Thailand's Nong Khai, the border province near Laos, for allegedly trying to smuggle human sperm out of the country.

Nithinon Srithaniyanan, 25, was arrested on Thursday (April 20) at the Thai-Laotian Friendship Bridge checkpoint in Nong Khai's Muang district for allegedly trying to smuggle six vials of sperm into Laos. The tubes had been reportedly packed inside a nitrogen tank.

Nithinon had been stopped by customs officials after he was seen crossing the border several times carrying a large bag. He was arrested for violating the technology-assisted fertilisation act that bans the export of human sperm, eggs and foetuses.

According to Thailand's law on assisted reproduction technology, sperms, eggs, and embryos cannot be traded, while violators and smugglers are subject to fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years.

After his arrest, Nithinon produced doctors' certificates saying the semen tubes belonged to a Chinese man and another Vietnamese man.

Nithinon also admitted carrying frozen semen tubes to a clinic in Laos 12 times and to a hospital and a clinic in Cambodia 13 times since last year. Each time, he said he was paid 5,000 baht ($203).

Officials believe the vials were bound for a surrogacy clinic in Laos, an impoverished country that is quickly soaking up demand for the "rent a womb" business. The boom in Laos, an authoritarian nation with no restrictions on surrogacy, comes after neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia clamped down on the industry following a flurry of scandals and concerns about exploitation.

Thailand for years hosted a thriving yet largely unregulated international surrogacy industry popular with same-sex couples. But a string of scandals in 2014 - including tussles over custody - spurred the military government to bar foreigners from using Thai surrogates.