Wednesday, 02 March 2011 20:04 Mom Kunthear and James O’Toole
Government officials will investigate the case of an illegal baby-selling ring broken up in Thailand last week that may also be operating in Cambodia, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday.
Last week in Bangkok, Thai officials freed 14 Vietnamese women who said they had been trafficked and held against their will by a firm known as “Baby 101” that offers up surrogate mothers for wealthy couples in Taiwan and elsewhere.
Victims said the company also has offices in Phnom Penh, the Bangkok Post reported, and on what is apparently its website, the firm lists local phone numbers and says it has a “reception office” in Phnom Penh.
Government officials contacted earlier this week said they were unfamiliar with the case, though Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that the Interior Ministry would work urgently to address the matter.
“I just got this information. We have to broadcast this information and the ministry has to investigate this case,” he said. “Human beings are not like beef, pork, chicken or ducks that can be sold in a market.”
Thai police have arrested an unknown number of Baby 101 staff who are being held in detention, while the Vietnamese women are set to be returned home. Thai Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanavisit told reporters in Bangkok last week that the business was “illegal and inhuman”, and that some victims had shown signs of rape.
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday that the suspects could face charges for human trafficking, money laundering and several other offences. He declined to comment in detail on the investigation but said Thailand would keep officials from neighbouring countries abreast of the case.
“Once the case has proceeded forward, I think the linkages and networking of these individuals will be further investigated,” Panitan said, adding that Thailand had been “working closely” with regional governments to combat cross-border crime.
Photos of 40 different women appear along with numbered codes on the apparent Baby 101 website, where visitors are encouraged to browse their various surrogacy options. The fee for the entire process is listed at US$32,000.
Calls to Baby 101’s Cambodian phone numbers were not answered yesterday. The website does not list a local address.