BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai doctor who performed in vitro fertilisation (IVF) for women involved in a surrogate baby business dubbed the "baby factory" has agreed to turn himself in, the police said on Monday.
The doctor wanted in connection with the so-called baby factory allegedly performed IVF on five women linked to a Japanese man who is suspected of fathering at least 12 babies by Thai surrogate mothers.
The doctor, who has not been identified, has until Sept 6 to turn himself in and is expected to do so, said police investigator Colonel Decha Promsuwan. "He is in the process of preparing and gathering evidence," Col Decha told a news conference. He did not elaborate but said an arrest warrant would be issued if he the failed to show up.
The doctor has been charged with practicing surrogacy without a licence and for violating the Thai medical council's code of conduct, which bars commercial surrogacy, and faces up to three years in prison.
Thailand has been gripped by a slew of surrogacy scandals following allegations this month that an Australian couple had abandoned their Down's syndrome baby with his Thai surrogate mother.
The case prompted a crackdown by the authorities on Thailand's largely unregulated surrogacy business. Thailand and India are popular choices for foreign couples looking for a surrogate mother.
This month, the police raided a Bangkok apartment and discovered nine surrogate babies with their nannies and a pregnant surrogate mother. They later said more babies were found, all suspected of having been fathered by the same Japanese man known as "Jack".
Five women discovered at the apartment have identified the same doctor as having performed IVF on them, the police said. A further six women are thought to have been treated by him.
Thai police said on Monday they have questioned the five women, who were paid up to US$12,500 (S$15,600) each by “Jack” to act as surrogate mothers.
The baffling case, which emerged after nine babies were found with nannies in a Bangkok condominium, has triggered a human trafficking probe and intensified the focus on the kingdom’s murky surrogacy industry.
The alleged father, who is reported by Japanese media to be the son of an IT millionaire, has left Thailand but last week voluntarily sent a DNA sample to try to clear his name. The tests revealed he is the biological father of at least 15 babies born to surrogates in the kingdom, although his motives remain unclear. He has not been charged but the police and Interpol are investigating the case and his motive for fathering the babies.
“We have already questioned five surrogate mothers – there are six left to question,” Police Colonel Decha Promsuwan, who is leading the investigation, told AFP. “They said they went through agencies... they wanted to do it because they could earn money, each of them was paid 300,000 to 400,000 baht (S$11,700 to S$15,600).”
Police have contacted their Japanese counterparts to learn more about the alleged father who was known to the surrogates as “Jack”, Col Decha added.
Thailand's military government has promised leniency on a case-by-case basis for surrogate mothers and babies.