Thailand Pledges To Tackle Sex Tourism

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.
When you think of Thailand, images of white sandy beaches and gap yah full-moon parties are likely among the first things that spring to mind. Crowded brothels, or “massage parlours”, might be next. Thanks to lazy portrayals of the country in films like The Hangover 2 and Bridget Jones’s Diary 2, many people associate it with prostitution. And it’s true that the sex industry is widespread – more than 120,000 women are employed as sex workers, according to a 2014 UNAIDS report, and the authorities are often accused of turning a blind eye. This is despite the fact that Thailand is a conservative and predominantly Buddhist country where prostitution has been illegal since 1960. But the Thai government wants to rid the country of this image, announcing plans to wipe out the sex industry to increase its appeal among wealthy people and make it a more attractive travel destination for women, The Telegraph reported. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand’s first female tourism minister, said she wanted the country to be known for “quality tourism”, adding “We want the sex industry gone,” reported Reuters. She played down the attraction of the sex industry to tourists, saying: "Tourists don't come to Thailand for such a thing. They come here for our beautiful culture.” The sex industry caters predominantly to Thai men, but tourists flock to bars and massage parlours, many of which are fronts for illegal brothels, Reuters reported. Almost a million British tourists visit the country each year. Just last month, police raided a spate of brothels in Bangkok over concerns about human trafficking and underage sex workers. More than 100 sex workers were arrested – 15 of whom were underage. However, there was no link between the aim to rid Thailand of its sex tourism industry and the raids, a police spokesman told Reuters. Organisations representing sex workers have said they would only support the crackdown on the sex industry if the government had a plan to support the women, many of whom see sex work as a way out of poverty, Reuters reported.

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