On 25 November, a documentary exposing a baby-selling racket in Malaysia was aired by Al Jazeera's investigative reporting team. It revealed a network of traffickers, doctors and government officials who were profiting from women and children. It has since garnered national attention and reactions from several ministries.

Health Minister Datuk Dr. S. Subramaniam reacted by instructing the Ministry of Health (MOH) to initiate an investigation for action to be taken against doctors and healthcare facilities that were highlighted in the programme.

IGP: Baby-selling rings exist, but police take firm action regularly

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar conceded that such baby-selling rings were present, but nothing as extreme as the depiction in the videos. He continues to reject claims that the police did not pursue baby-sellers, and highlighted six arrests from 2010, including doctors and nurses.

“Clearly, the police regularly takes firm action and cooperates closely with ministries and government agencies to ensure trafficking activities and any other forms of exploitation of women and children are given priority,” said the IGP.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has called for a meeting involving the MOH, Home Ministry, the National Registration Department (JPN) and the police. It aims to find ways to rescue and shelter the babies if the claims of the report were authentic.

Malaysia cast as a central hub for sale of babies

Titled "Malaysia: Babies for Sale", the documentary revealed that babies were being traded like commodities and their prices varied depending on race, skin colour, gender and weight. Doctors and government officials cooperated by falsifying birth documents and some critics said that the underground market was created to target couples who cannot have their own child due to Malaysia's complex adoption laws.

The four-month undercover investigation saw how easy it was to buy a baby in Malaysia, with traffickers publicising catalogues containing photos of pregnant women to choose from.

"Legal adoption can take years in Malaysia and it's a complicated process," Chan Tau Chou, the undercover journalist said.

"That is why many people turn to traffickers to buy babies. And then they pay doctors and government officials to falsify birth documents so that no one knows the baby is not theirs," she adds.

Babies are priced between RM6,600 to RM11,000 and can be chosen online. Many end up with good parents, but many others have been "bought" to be groomed for a paedophile ring or begging syndicate to exploit them.

"There are no proper checks on the buyers and whether they make good parents. The best interests of the child are never considered in such transaction," Chan said.

Video evidence also shows doctors who openly offer to aid the process of getting falsified birth certificates for the babies who have been bought, liaising with officials working in the JPN.

Doctors and medical centres to face disciplinary action

"Depending on the result of the investigation, action will be taken accordingly towards the doctors and healthcare facilities involved," Dr. Subramaniam said.

Doctors will be facing disciplinary actions by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), which may lead to deregistration from the Medical Register under the Medical Act 1971, while the centres involved may have their certificate or license revoked.

He reminded all medical practitioners that they were expected at all times to observe proper standards of personal behaviour in keeping with the dignity of the profession.

He also asked the public for cooperation to help curb this activity by coming forward with relevant information for further action to be taken by the relevant agencies. The cooperation from the public will help the MOH to safeguard patients' safety and the quality of the healthcare system, he added. MIMS

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