In order to begin to understand what goes on behind the scenes of the Thailand Sex Trade, you need to have some basic knowledge of Thai culture. I will not proclaim to be an expert on Thai culture, as I am not Thai, however, my 10 years of experience living in Thailand, my ability to speak the language, and my time as a teacher, makes me far more qualified to comment on this issue than women’s rights activists, NGO’s and tourists that have never lived in this country.
The reality is that the way Thai people view prostitution is very different than the way western people do. Prostitution has been an active part of Thai society for hundreds of years. Many people in the west believe that Thailand’s sex industry exists to cater to western men and that if foreigners were not traveling to Thailand seeking sex, Thai women would not be forced into prostitution.
What these people do not realize is that most of Thailand’s sex trade workers cater to a Thai clientele. It is common for Thai men, both married and single to use the services of sex trade workers in karaoke bars, brothels, and massage parlors. Most of the places frequented by Thai men are not available to tourists.
Prostitution as a profession, and the use of prostitution as a service, are generally considered very normal in Thailand. Thai law prohibits the sale or distribution of any sexually explicit images, nudity, pornography, or anything of this nature. In reality, sex for hire is available on a massive scale in every part of Thai society.
Victims Of The Thailand Sex Trade
We have all heard the stories of the poor girls that are sold by their parents into prostitution, the exploited children, and the underage girls forced to sell themselves. There may be cases of this in Thailand, however, I can tell you that they are rare, and this is certainly not the situation in most cases.
Most of the women working in Thailand’s sex trade industry have made a decision to work as prostitutes because it is easier and more profitable than conventional work. There are plenty of jobs available for unskilled workers, many of these are filled by Burmese immigrants, because not enough Thai people will accept jobs that require physical labor for low wages.
Many people try to paint the men as the victims because many middle-aged men come to Thailand looking for love, and end up being conned out of their life savings. Many of these men probably deserve everything they get, as they should not be expecting that a 19-year-old beautiful woman is going to fall in love with them instantly because they have money.
There are many stories of men losing their entire life savings after being conned by a bar girl, and many of the girls are in business to do just this. It is probably, in many cases, more accurate to describe a Thai bar girl as a predator, rather than a victim.
Risks of The Thailand Sex Trade
Now the risk of AIDS is often talked about when discussing prostitution in Thailand. Nowadays most sex trade workers practice safe sex using condoms, and this has helped reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
I would definitely recommend using protection if you are using the services of a sex trade worker, in Thailand or anywhere else in the world. The risk of being cheated out of large sums of money is always a concern in Thailand, in any business arrangement.
It is often said that the best-looking women in Thailand are actually men, and this is a very real concern. You want to be careful if you meet a tall girl with large breasts and she looks too good to be true. There are many ways to spot a katoey (transsexual) however there is always the exception to the rule.
You can reduce the risk of an unwanted encounter with a Ladyboy by avoiding bars and nightclubs that they are known to frequent.
Myths Of Thailand’s Sex Industry
One of the most common myths is that Thai women working as prostitutes are eager to marry a western man in order to get a ticket out of Thailand. Many western people might think of Thailand as a third-world country, Thai people view their country as the center of the universe, a global economic superpower (as Americans view America).
Compared to Myanmar and other surrounding countries, Thailand is a land of opportunity and they do dominate economics in the region. The fact is that most Thai prostitutes are not interested in leaving Thailand, and many of them are not interested in getting married.
The idea that The Vietnam War is responsible for creating the sex industry in Thailand is completely false. Thailand has had an active sex trade for more than a century, and for the most part, foreigners have little to do with it. Today there are approximately 3 million sex trade workers in Thailand, and less than 1 million of those have access to foreigners.
Reality Of The Thailand Sex Trade
The reality is that prostitution in Thailand is socially acceptable and part of life in Thailand. This has been a part of Thai society for hundreds of years and was introduced to foreigners during the Vietnam war.
There are plenty of opportunities for Thai women to work as waitresses and cooks, cleaners, etc., however many of these jobs are filled by Burmese because Thai people do not want to accept these jobs.
Unfortunately, it is very common for major networks to run stories on this subject, written by people that have very limited experience in this country, and they really are not well enough informed to be making any comments on the topic.
Human Rights In Thailand
Human rights groups are focused on their efforts to put an end to horrible crimes such as human trafficking and child prostitution.
I support their efforts as much as anyone, however, the problem is that many of them come to Thailand full of passion and dedication to their cause, but absolutely lacking in experience and knowledge.
There are plenty of human rights issues in Thailand that needs to be addressed, however many organizations are focused on all the wrong places.
At The End Of The Day
Thailand is a melting pot of hundreds of years of Tradition meeting full speed with the 21st Century. This collision of tradition and Western thinking brings up some interesting topics of conversation for Thais, Expats and outsiders anytime the topic comes up.
If you’re interested in learning more about Thailand’s Sex Industry check out our articles about Sex Tourism: The Truth About Asian Massage Parlors and the Pattaya Sex and Travel Guide For First-Timers.
We also have discounted Accommodation on our Booking Page if you’re ready to visit the “Land of Smiles”.