Illegal trade in human sperm still unclear

Dr Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn, deputy director-general of the Health Service Support Department, speaks to reporters after inspecting an infertility treatment clinic in Bangkok on Friday. (Photos by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

It was still not confirmed a man arrested at the border in Nong Khai on his way to Laos was actually carrying human semen, eggs or embyros for use in surrogacy, a senior health official said on Friday.

Charges could not be laid until the frozen contents of the nitrogen cylinder found in his suitcase were examined and confirmed, Dr Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn, deputy director-general of the Health Service Support Department, said.

He was responding to the reported arrest of an outbound 25-year-old Thai man carrying frozen semen at the Thai-Lao border checkpoint in Nong Khai on Thursday.

If it was confirmed the cylinder did contain vials of human semen, as reported, then officials would establish if there was any evidence linking it to any agent, employer or clinic, he said.

"It is not easy to find out who is the source of sperm, eggs or embryos and if they were traded," Dr Thongchai said.

He led officials to inspect some of the fertility clinics in inner Bangkok named by the arrested man on Friday.

Their operations were legal and standard and nothing linked them to the arrest in Nong Khai, Dr Thongchai said.

Prof Dr Prasit Watanapa, president of the Medical Council, also said officials had yet to prove what was inside the nitrogen cylinder. If it was human sperm, eggs or embryos, the doctor responsible could face legal and disciplinary action.

The managing director of Superior ART infertility treatment clinic in Ratchathewi district, Sarayuth Assamakorn, held a media conference on Friday. Superior ART was one of the several clinics mentioned as the source of the semen.

Mr Surayuth said two men, a Chinese and a Vietnamese, had sought infertility counselling at the clinic earlier this year. Semen had been collected from them and stored at the clinic, he said.

Both clients authorised a Thai nominee to withdraw their sperm from the clinic on April 17 and 19, but the nominee was not the man arrested in Nong Khai.

Mr Sarayut said his clinic normally let clients withdraw what was considered to be their personal property. They had the right to do so. The clinic had nothing to do with sperm transportation or trade.

The clinic always warned clients that the export or importation of human sperm was illegal, he said.

Sarayuth Assamakorn, managing director of Superior ART infertility treatment clinic, explains its services on Friday.

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