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Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Pattaya finding it hard to clean up its sexy act
Thai Coconuts reports: In a daring nautical themed outfit, sex worker May
confidently predicts the survival of Thai sleaze town Pattaya despite a junta
attempt to tame the kingdom’s “Sin City”.
She is bullish because she, like tens of thousands of others in
the industry, have no plans to give up their jobs. And there are no signs the
hordes of foreign sex tourists are abating.
Two hours east of Bangkok, Pattaya’s bawdy reputation hails from
the Vietnam War era when American GIs partied in the city in theiir downtime.
Today, it spins money off its no-holds-barred reputation and its
most successful sex workers earn anywhere between THB70,000 – THB150,000
(USD2,000 – USD4,400) a month, as much as ten times the national average wage.
“I make good money here, for me and my family,” May
said as she touted for clients near ‘Walking Street’ — a mile-long drag
festooned with bars and clubs pouring out ear-crushing EDM music.
But concerns about
the impact on Thailand’s reputation have spurred authorities to act, while
frequent reports of underage sex workers, drug abuse and mafia operations
further muddy Pattaya’s name.
May, who is
transgender, said the strip has felt more subdued in recent weeks as police and
soldiers conduct frequent patrols as part of a clean-up ordered by the
censorious ruling junta.
Police Lt. Col.
Sulasak Kalokwilas is one of those tasked with what many might deem the
ultimate Sisyphean task: weaning Pattaya off sex.
“We are suppressing
obscene and dirty shows. We’re trying to make those bars disappear,” he
As he spoke, lines
of women stood behind him in revealing outfits enticing punters into bars with
names like Taboo and G-Spot as well as Fahrenheit — a nightspot boasting “The
Hottest Girls in Pattaya.”
“The ladyboys and
women working there, they are not involved in the sex trade,” said Pattaya’s
police chief Col. Apichai Kroppeth, echoing the kind of Thai police rhetoric
commonly divorced from reality.
“They work as
waitresses, sit and chat with customers, some dance in shows,” he said.
Bar fines, short
For many residents
of the city the latest moral outrage fits a familiar pattern: negative overseas
headlines prompt authorities to launch high-visibility — yet limited —
crackdowns on an industry that pays the bills for everyone.
the poachers to be the gamekeepers?” said one westerner who has made Pattaya
his home, when asked if the latest clean-up will work.
The sex trade is a
cash cow for the bar owners, girls, massage parlors, hotels, taxis, mafia and,
many have long alleged, the cops charged with policing.
Thais call it “pon
prayote,” says British journalist Andrew Drummond who reported on crime in
Thailand for two decades.
“It means everyone
benefits… it brings in massive amounts of money and simply couldn’t happen
without police connivance.”
there was “no bribery for sure” in his force.
illegal in conservative Thailand. Yet it remains ubiquitous for local and
foreign customers alike.
Businesses use a
well worn loophole to avoid prosecution, hiring sex workers inside the bars
merely to entertain and talk to patrons.
A small “bar fine,”
usually around THB500 (USD14), secures private “short time” away from the bar
where any deal struck for sex is purely between the punter and prostitute.
have vowed to shutter the trade, there is little discussion on what happens to
the sex workers — who often support large families with their earnings.
There are no exact
numbers, but a 2014 UNAIDS report suggested some 140,000 females are employed
by sex work across Thailand. Tens of thousands are thought to operate in