Thai illegal surrogacy ringleader, 3 others sentenced to 50 years

The organization recruited Thai women to deliver babies where prospective parents paid thousands of dollars.
By Nontarat Phaicharoen for BenarNews
2024.03.19
Bangkok
Thai illegal surrogacy ringleader, 3 others sentenced to 50 years Police interrogate Ran Zhao (seated, right) over his role in an illegal transnational surrogacy ring in Bangkok, Feb. 13, 2020.
Courtesy National Police Bureau

A Thai court on Tuesday sentenced a Chinese businessman and three accomplices to 50 years in prison following their convictions on charges of operating a transnational ring that paid Thai women to serve as surrogate mothers.

The Criminal Court in Bangkok sentenced ringleader Ran Zhao and the other three for their roles in the illicit operation that they ran between 2015 and 2020. Seven others, including his wife, Su Yingting, were sentenced to four years and released because they had been jailed following their February 2020 arrests.

The public prosecutor had charged the 11 with crimes related to participating in an international criminal organization and facilitating commercial surrogacy.

“The defendants, forming an international criminal organization, conspired to buy, sell, import, or export eggs or embryos. They facilitated commercial surrogacy using assisted reproductive technology by recruiting and paying several Thai women to become surrogate mothers,” the court ruled.

Ran Zhao and his top associates received the maximum sentence permitted by Thai law, after the court initially handed down sentences totaling 150 years for the ringleaders.

“The total sentence for four defendants amounted to 150 years. The four defendants confessed, benefiting the deliberation to reduce the penalty by half to 75 years. According to the law that stipulates imprisonment should not exceed 50 years, the sentence for all four defendants is maintained at 50 years each,” the judgment specified.

Su Yingting and the six others were sentenced for participating in the international criminal organization. Additional charges were dismissed because of insufficient evidence.

As the defendants were led away from the courtroom, family members of those sentenced to four years embraced their relatives as they had already served more than the required time and were released immediately. Ran Zhao and his accomplices, meanwhile, were escorted to prison to begin serving their sentences.

Thai police did not respond to requests for comment by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated news outlet.

2020 arrests

The case stems from a February 2020 raid by Thai authorities on 10 residences in Bangkok and other provinces, leading to the arrests of members of the transnational surrogacy ring led by Ran Zhao. Authorities had been investigating the group’s commercial surrogacy operations, which began in 2015.

Thai Police discovered that the operation involved taking Thai women to neighboring countries for embryo implantation, then returning them to Thailand for pregnancy, and eventually taking them to the destination country for childbirth.

Agreements were made for prices ranging from 400,000 to 600,000 baht (US$11,100 to $16,600) per case, with about 30 instances of surrogacy conducted across five provinces in Thailand. The surrogate mothers would receive compensation of 300,000 to 500,000 baht (US$8,300 to $13,900) per case.

Following the raid, police reported seizing vehicles, a house and a company building valued at about 30 million baht (US$831,500).

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news outlet.

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