Thailand is world-famous for its beautiful, sunny beaches, for the virgin landscapes, azure waters and exotic islands. Some tourists who visit the Kingdom are not interested in Thailand’s natural beauties, but in its nightlife, more specifically sex tourism.
This industry has recently came under heavy fire from government officials, especially since the country’s first female tourism minister was sworn into office. Ms. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has taken upon herself to rid Thailand of the sex trade.
“Tourists don’t come to Thailand for such a thing. They come here for our beautiful culture. We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone,” said Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul.
In Thailand there are approximately 125.000 sex workers, among them prostitutes and the well-known ladyboys. Studies show that the number of people involved in the industry reaches even double that number, while some say the actual numbers are even higher. Prostitution is illegal in the country, at least in the past 70 years, but until now the authorities and the police acted permisively, mostly because of bribes.
If Ms. Kobkarn’s plan of banning paid sex in Thailand will become a reality, this would mean a heavy blow to the tourism industry, say some of those trying to promote the welfare of sex workers and helps them to find alternative work.
“The police presence already drives off a number of clients who come to relax or drink at bars. Wiping out this industry is guaranteed to make Thailand lose visitors and income,” said Surang Janyam, director of Service Workers in Group (SWING), an association which provides sex workers with free medical care and vocational training.
In the past weeks, a series of police raids and arrests took down some of the largest brothels in the capital of Bangkok, but the phenomenon is too widely spread to make it easy on government officials. Many prostitutes in the popular southern resorts come from empoverished villages and can earn up to 5,000 baht ($143.14) a night, nearly 20 times the minimum wage of 300 baht ($8.59) per day.
The Kingdom is considered a predominantly Buddhist quite conservative country. The flaghship of its’ tourism industry are considered the temples, but many tourists come to have a taste of the extensive sex industry.