BANGKOK: A simple Internet chat service has become a popular tool for sex work in Thailand, a survey has found.
The survey by students from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education has found that many male and female freelance prostitutes had been offering their services through chat rooms on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) servers.
Although most Internet users now prefer instant messaging services, many prostitutes still preferred IRC chat rooms, the survey found. They found most of the prostitutes were males serving both same-sex and female clients.
Many of the sex workers did not come from poor families but middle-class or well-to-do families. They engaged in prostitution because they regarded it as an easy source of income.
The students said prostitutes and their customers used a special interface programme called Pirch to connect to the IRC network.
Pirch allows its users to communicate in Thai, and prostitutes – or “entrepreneurs” as the students referred to them – to set up chat rooms with names in Thai to attract would-be customers.
Chat-room names include “High School Girls for Sale”, “Room for Prostitution”, “Room of Lonely Office Girls”, “University Students for Sale”, “Chiang Mai Gay Room”,and “Hi-school Gay Room”.
The students said prostitutes liked to use the chat rooms because they were cheap, with a computer and Internet-access cost of only Bt20 to 30 (RM1.80 to RM2.70) an hour.
The survey found business was most brisk on weekends and after office hours on Fridays and Saturdays. The peak time for Internet meetings was 6-8pm, when an average of 150 people visited a chat room.
The students interviewed a 19-year-old male prostitute who said he came from a well-to-do provincial family to study here, and entered the industry because he considered it fun and he had nothing to lose.
Another prostitute is an engineer with a degree working in a cement firm, while another is a 16-year-old student from a boy’s school who said he had earned 200,000 baht (RM18,000) in the two years in the trade.
The boy said his elder brother introduced him to Internet prostitution. His brother and his brother’s girlfriend, who attends a girl’s school, were also in the trade. – The Nation / Asia News Network
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