Pattaya sex industry frustrates junta efforts


  • ASEAN+
  • Monday, 27 Mar 2017

Breakdown crackdown: Policemen dancing during the launch of the “Happy Zone” programme that aims to improve the image of the city in Pattaya. — Reuters

PATTAYA: With mascots dressed as smiling fish and a police rock band, Thai authorities launched a “Happy Zone” at the weekend to improve the image of a city notorious for sex tourism.

Stung by foreign headlines portraying the seaside resort of Pattaya as “Sin City” and “The World’s Sex Capital”, Thailand’s junta has begun a new effort to re-brand it.

But the contradictions in Pattaya highlight Thailand’s challenge in tackling a side of its tourist industry that remains economically vital while being officially excoriated.

“I want people to see that we are not like what they say. We are not allowing prostitution in these entertainment places,” provincial governor Pakkaratorn Teianchai told reporters on the infamous Walking Street in Pattaya, southeast of Bangkok.

Less than 10m away, women accosted foreign men to offer sex for 2,000 baht (RM256.18).

Others lined up with numbers so customers could take their pick.

Masseuses offered “happy ending” massages whose euphemistic title has nothing to do with the Happy Zone of the authorities.

“Everyone is here to make a living,” said one 35-year-old woman who came originally from a village in central Thailand.

“I would rather be a waitress, but then I couldn’t send my children to school,” she said.

In fact, sex tourism is not growing as fast as other aspects of Thailand’s tourist industry.

But there is an indication in the balance of male to female visitors. In 2012, there were nearly 6 men for every 4 women. In 2015, the numbers were pretty much even, according to figures provided to Reuters by the tourism ministry. — Reuters


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