From ‘Mung Ming’ to ‘Baby Gammy’: a local history of assisted reproduction in Thailand

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This paper documents the rapidly changing history of IVF in Thailand since the birth of the first IVF conceived child there in 1987. The paper is based upon extensive Thai and English media material as well as interviews with leading reproductive specialists and is informed by long-term ethnographic research on IVF in Thailand. Assisted reproduction was quickly accepted in Thai society and associated with modernity and nationalist pride in Thai scientific progress. From its early beginnings in state-owned teaching hospitals, assisted reproduction rapidly expanded into the Thai private sector. Although Thai Medical Council guidelines were introduced in 1997, the loose regulatory regime saw the growth of an international trade in assisted reproductive technology services and medical facilitation companies brokering commercial surrogacies. From 2011, various controversies brought the industry into disrepute. These included: the trafficking of Vietnamese women as surrogates; non-medical sex selection and commercial ova donation and commercial surrogacy in breach of Thai Medical Council guidelines; the highly publicised case of a Japanese man commissioning 15 children with multiple surrogates; and the ‘Baby Gammy’ case involving the abandonment of a twin born with Down Syndrome. These cases exposed the exploitative downside of an assisted reproductive technology market that takes advantage of countries with little or no regulation in place and led Thai society to question the benefits of these technologies, their practitioners and the industry it has created. Since 2015, new legislation restricts clinical practices, limits eligibility for services and bans all commercial ova donation or surrogacy or its facilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalReproductive Biomedicine & Society Online
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • assisted reproductive technologies
  • cross border commercial surrogacy
  • IVF history
  • Thailand

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