BANGKOK, Thailand -- Police are investigating an international "efficient embryo refining" syndicate after discovering 15 women who were allegedly inseminated and kept in a house during their pregnancies so an Internet-based company could sell their babies.

Photographs of "Oriental Selected Egg Donors" showed young, cute Asian women in coy poses on the Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate website ( website).

For at least $35,000 anyone could go online and rent a surrogate mother, which included a payment for sperm or an "ovum donor" of their choice who was either "Eastern race" or "Caucasian," with a selected "complexion" of either "Yellow," "Caucasian," "Brown," "African," or "Red."

The company was apparently administered on the island nation of Taiwan with surrogate homes in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

On Wednesday (March 2), the Public Health Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Vietnamese embassy, Thai Immigration Department, and Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists were coordinating how to respond.

Police raided the expensive, modern home on Feb. 24 and found 15 women from Vietnam, including several who were pregnant.

"They are between 12 weeks and eight months pregnant, and we found two of the women were carrying twins," said Paskorn Chaivanichsiri, director of a government-run hospital where the women were taken by authorities.

Customers could buy sperm from the Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate company, which would create a "test tube baby" with a client's ovum, and artificially implant it in a surrogate mother, the company said.

More commonly, customers could provide their own sperm, plus an egg if available, and pay the company to artificially impregnate one of its anonymous women.

In broken English, its website said there would be "no need to have sexual relationship with surrogate mother."

Women did not have to be infertile to rent someone else's womb.

"It is quite suitable for the women who desire to have kids but no time for pregnancy," the company said.

It would be "unnecessary to fear birth pangs. Unnecessary to worry about out of shapes on stature; neither to fear the intimacy fading with husband," it said in mangled English, referring to the woes of pregnancy stretch marks and postponed romantic enjoyment.

Costs included the surrogate mother's travel "to Thailand," plus an "egg retrieval" from a female customer or donor at an unidentified "designated hospital" along with other medical and personal expenses to ensure "childbirth."

Surrogate mothers were kept under constant surveillance in Bangkok while incubating their fetuses.

"There are security lookout in every entrance" who "severely control" the site, while "guards routinely patrol...24 hours a day all year."

The company boasted its surrogate mothers live where "the environment is quiet, clean, fresh air, beautiful lake, rivulet, swimming pool, tennis court, convenience store, market is near by. Every 80 meter interval a deceleration slope on the road, trees and grass on the sidewalk, it is safe for surrogates living inside."

The company provided "an air conditioner equipped in each room, servants will take care everything, the only thing surrogate needs to do is to look after the fetus and themselves."

"Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Thailand," said a Bangkok Post editorial on Wednesday (March 2).

"Medical facilities and practitioners obviously are implicated" the paper said, and the Medical Council of Thailand were now investigating what doctors in Bangkok were allegedly involved before, during or after the pregnancies.

"We don't know if the [impregnation] process is done here or in Taiwan," said Immigration Deputy Police Chief Pansak Kasemsant.

A Taiwanese man, identified as Siang Lung Lor, was allegedly an executive at the company and managed the Bangkok house.

He faces possible charges of human trafficking, plus detention and employment of illegal alien workers, but could be prosecuted for other crimes, Mr. Pansak said.

Some of the surrogate mothers said they were lured to Bangkok after being promised unspecified well-paying jobs, and then had their Vietnamese passports seized by the company's staff, but details of the women's involvement were still unclear and they did not have the necessary work permits, authorities said.

If a deal is worked out with the Vietnamese embassy, the women may soon be deported, officials said.

"All the women will return to Vietnam this week," predicted Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanavisit on Monday (February 28).

"The babies to be born to the Vietnamese surrogate mothers will be under the care of the Vietnamese government," Mr. Jurin said.

A 31-year-old Vietnamese woman who gave birth in Bangkok just before the raid could now claim she was the legal parent of her baby boy under Thai law, said the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Thailand's President Somboon Kunatikom.

If the baby was born from a donated egg or sperm, that person may have to apply to adopt the child if they wanted to keep it, or challenge the case in court based on DNA evidence, officials said.

The company's website meanwhile needed to be blocked in Thailand because such advertisements are against Thai law, the Department of Special Investigation's Director-General Narat Sawetanan said.

The Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate company said on its website that the identities of all surrogate mothers, any sperm and egg donors, and the customers would be kept secret, they would never know each other, and their files would be "destroyed" after the births.

Selecting a surrogate mother was easy through a simple website which allowed users to make choices and "submit" their request.

Clients could specify a surrogate mother's height and weight plus her "appearance" by clicking "average," "nice," "pretty," or "no specific request."

Choices for a surrogate's education level ranged from "junior high school" through to "college upward."

Customers could mix and match descriptions of a would-be mother from among options such as married, divorced, never married, previously pregnant, never pregnant, "has boyfriend," or is a "cohabitant" with a man, or is aged "under 23" to 35 years old.

After completing an online "ovum demand," clients were assured, "We will satisfy your request, try hard to find out superior egg. Not frozen!"

Females who wanted to earn an estimated $5,000 as a surrogate mother were asked on a job application if they had a "double-fold" or "single-fold" eyelid, and if their eyes were big, small, or "general size" because some customers were concerned about how their baby's eyes would appear.

Sperm and ovum donors were both asked about the color of their hair, eyes and skin, and if they had a "sexual relationship with more than 2 persons in six months."

Customers enjoyed a "much higher possibility" of receiving an "outstanding" baby instead of a "normal" one by designing their infant online, the Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate company said.

"Sex selection is available," but the price remained the same.

"So far, the surrogacy contract is not legal in Taiwan, because [a] surrogacy agency is illegal in Taiwan. Nevertheless, it is not illegal in the country" where the company arranged artificial inseminations and surrogate mothers.

In an "Important Notice" it said the company did "not use" Thai women as surrogates -- though the website did not identify any of the pregnant women's origins.

Officials had no idea how many births the company arranged after it opened for business more than a year ago.

Customers' nationalities were not revealed, but Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate was especially interested in convincing Chinese men to use its mothers.

"In Chinese culture...thousands of years [of] traditional thought" perceives "infertility" as the biggest "sin," it said.

"Try to imagine if your girlfriend tells you," she is not able to get pregnant.

"Would you marry her, though you love her deeply. This problem has been undoubtedly a dilemma for [a] male in Chinese society."

The surrogates' managers insisted they had a solution.

"We could create the finest procreation condition for your baby, mainly through the efficient embryo refining," so "only the superior" fertilized egg would be produced "for implanting."


Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of Hello My Big Big Honey!, a non-fiction book of investigative journalism. His web page is:

Asia Correspondent

(Copyright 2011 Richard S Ehrlich)