There are many things that Thailand is famous for, but its cuisine, its islands, and notably its manic and chaotic capital city, Bangkok, are among the most well-known. Prostitution is another feature the city is known for, particularly among certain types of visitors. There is no doubt that it is highly common in Thailand and can be found in every region of the nation. When most people talk about it, they do so with a chuckle or a joke following the comment. Even while it is not just a recent trend, it has been there for ages, and despite efforts to crack down on it, it does not appear like it is going to get anywhere any time soon.
An ancient tradition
The exploitation of women and other forms of sexual slavery against their will have a long history despite the tragedy of these practices. During the Ayutthaya period of Thai history, which lasted from 1351 until 1767, women were essentially treated as spoils of war and distributed among male warriors in the form of concubines. This was done as a reward for the male warriors’ accomplishments on the battlefield. Because they were enslaved, they were obligated to obey the directives of their owners at all times or risk being punished. It continued like this for hundreds of years until the 20th century, when King Rama V decided to take a more Western approach to governance and put an end to the practice of slavery. Unhappily, that was not the end of his anguish; it just began a new phase.
Free – in name only
The abolition of slavery resulted in the release of those who had been enslaved. Still, freedom without any land, property, or money to sustain a family frequently forced formerly enslaved people without education to resort to prostitution as their only option. The number of brothels increased rapidly and expanded across the country. Here is where they faced competition not just from Chinese immigrants, who arrived in Thailand following a boom in the country’s rice exports in the middle of the 19th century, but also, frequently, from younger children, who were sought after by some.
The conflict also increased the number of people working in the prostitute industry. During World War II, Japanese soldiers controlled Thailand, and during that time, they exploited Thai women by forcing them to work as prostitutes in their military establishments. Despite the fact that Thailand was not directly involved in the Vietnam War, it was a favorite destination for American servicemen to visit during their R&R leave. They concentrated in places like Patpong, which is located in Bangkok, and Pattaya, which is located on the seaside, both of which are still known for their prostitution to this day.
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An economic change
The economy of Thailand expanded in tandem with the nation’s modernization process. The people required cash to buy commodities as they transitioned from an economy centered on subsistence activities to a capitalist economy. Many people were simply unable to afford to live, which is why they turned to prostitution. They migrated to the major cities in great numbers to make more money as prostitutes than they could have made anywhere else, and then they moved back home. This practice is still common in today’s society; given that it is the only method for many people to provide for their families, they frequently send money back to their homes every month.
Thailand started to recognize the potential in tourism in the late 20th century, and as a result, the country made significant investments in marketing efforts to promote Thailand as a tourist destination. The subsequent increase in tourism led to an increase in sex tourism as well; it is believed that over 4 million tourists visit Thailand each year solely to visit the country’s sex business.
Exploitation and trafficking
When done on a voluntary basis, sex work can be empowering for women since it provides a level of agency and liberation that is sometimes difficult for women to find in other contexts. It’s possible that this is how things work in the West, but sadly, it’s not usually how things work in Thailand. In order to obtain the services of women, prostitutes, pimps, and operators of brothels frequently take advantage of them and deceive them. Due to Thailand’s location in close proximity to Myanmar, which is rife with insurgency, as well as other less developed countries like Laos and Cambodia, vulnerable women are frequently trafficked into Thailand to work as prostitutes. Human trafficking is still a significant issue. Child sex work is also a depressing reality; Thailand has made significant strides in the fight against human trafficking in recent years, recently moving from the lowest Tier 3 in the report published by the United States Department of State to Tier 2 and partnering with the FBI and other international organizations; however, the problem is still widespread, and there is still a culture that places blame on the victims.
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Prostitution in Thailand today
Even though it has been outlawed in Thailand since the 1960s, prostitution is nevertheless very much alive and well throughout the streets of Bangkok, Pattaya, and every other major population center in the country. It is physically impossible to travel down Khao San Road without hearing the infamous ‘ping pong shows’ announced by the sound of lips smacking. There are still plenty of massage parlors, and karaoke bars open late into the night in most Thai cities, with their workers sitting outside and beckoning punters to join them. While such shows might not be available in some other tourist destinations, there are still plenty of massage parlors and karaoke bars open in Thailand. There was a debate in the media about wanting to do rid of the sex industry in Thailand; nevertheless, it is not bad words that will grow fruit; rather, it will be powerful, heartfelt words and stronger acts that will bear fruit. It is terrible that such a great country is frequently associated with something as bad as prostitution despite the fact that Thailand does not have a monopoly on prostitution. The reality is that child trafficking, and prostitution continue to be serious problems not only in Thailand, but also throughout all of Southeast Asia as a whole, and it has been so for a lot longer than the time that it was supposed to be remedied.