- Thai authorities raid two properties, seize nine babies
- Several women being questioned about potential links to commercial surrogacy
- Raids follow outrage over case of baby Gammy, left behind by Australian parents
- Gammy was one of twins born to a Thai surrogate in December
Thai authorities have raided two premises and seized nine babies -- allegedly fathered by one Japanese man -- as part of the country's crackdown on suspected illegal surrogacy.
One of the raids was on an IVF clinic involved in the birth of Gammy, a seven-month-old boy with Down syndrome left in Thailand by his Australian parents.
The case has made international headlines amid accusations from his surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, that Gammy's parents weren't interested in taking their son, who also has a serious heart condition.
The parents have denied that they wanted to leave him, according to a statement from a friend to the Bunbury Mail, who said they were told their gravely ill baby was going to die.
Japanese man wanted 'a big family'
Along with the raid on the clinic, authorities searched a condominium in the Lad Phrao area of Bangkok after receiving a tip-off about the presence of several women and babies.
Police found nine babies, ranging in age from newborns to one year old, who were being cared for by seven Thai "nannies," said Paveena Hongsakul, chairwoman and founder of the Paveena Foundation.
All of the children appeared to have been well taken care of and had been moved to a government-run orphanage, she said.
Police Colonel Panthana Nujchanart said a Thai lawyer acting for a Japanese man claimed the babies belonged to his client. He wanted to build "a big family," the lawyer said.
"It is very unusual for a father to have nine babies at the same time," said Boonruang Triruangworarat, head of Thailand's Department of Health Service Support, adding that police were continuing to question the nannies.
Code of conduct 'breached'
The raids came amid an international furor over the fate of baby Gammy, who was born via surrogate with his twin sister in December. Their parents took the female twin back to their home in Bunbury, Western Australia, leaving their son with the surrogate mother who was concerned how she'd pay for his care.
At a press conference in Bangkok on Thursday, Boonruang said it was "very clear" that the clinic involved in Gammy's birth had broken the law governing the establishment of medical facilities.
He said the clinic had failed to ensure its doctors followed the Medical Council's Code of Conduct. The code states that surrogacy is allowed only when the surrogate is a blood relative of the parents and doesn't receive any payment.
"It's clear for this case that (Pattaramon) is not a relative and also she has received money to carry the baby," Boonruang Triruangworarat said.
Authorities have previously said they would not pursue legal action against Gammy's mother, a 21-year-old food stall worker who is caring for the baby alongside her own two children, aged six and three.
However, if charged and convicted, the clinic operator faces one year in prison and a fine of 20,000 baht (US$619). The doctor who performed the procedure could also be struck off. The Medical Council is currently reviewing the doctor's medical license, Boonruang said.
Around 20 doctors work at the clinic, which has performed about 100 surrogacies so far, authorities said. It's one of 45 clinics and hospitals that are authorized to perform IVF across the country.