Thailand yesterday imposed a countrywide temporary ban on castrations "for cosmetic purposes" which are advertised on the internet and promise to relieve ladyboys of their testicles for as little as 4,000 baht (£65).
According to the Times, the health ministry has written to 16,000 hospitals amid concerns that boys below the age of 18 have been "submitting to the surgery in the mistaken belief that it represents a cheap alternative to a full sex-change operation".
While many ladyboys believe the 20-minute procedure will give them a more feminine figure, the Medical Council of Thailand, which oversees hospitals and clinics, is concerned at the possible health risks to young patients, including adverse affects on physical development and premature ageing.
Council chairman Pipit Yingseree said: "Despite having their parents' consent for the surgery, panel members still unanimously agreed that such an operation on young ladyboys could cause severe damage to their health, both physically and mentally."
A health official confirmed: "The ban will last until the Medical Council reaches a decision over the castrations. These castrations are unethical."
The government's stance is supported by the Gay Political Group of Thailand, which has "campaigned for greater regulation of the industry and an end to the castration of juveniles".
Its head, Natee Teerarojjanapongs, told the Bangkok Post: "It's a totally wrong perception that castration will make boys more feminine. These youngsters should wait until they are mature enough to thoroughly consider the pros and cons of such an operation."
To show it intends to walk it like it talks it, the Medical Council will today rule whether the owner of one Bangkok clinic has breached medical ethics in allegedly performing castration on boys under 18 for just 5,000 baht. Thep Vejvisit admits having carried out "more than 500 operations on Thais, as well as foreigners, including patients from Britain, the United States and Japan" at his Pratunam Kanpaet clinic, but "insists that all of them were 20 or older".
If found guilty, Thep faces a possible one-year jail sentence, the Times notes. ®