In Brief

Thai sex industry under attack from first female tourism minister

Military government in denial about prostitution's contribution to economy, say activists

Thailand's first female tourism minister has vowed to crack down on the country's infamous sex industry in the wake of several police raids.

"We want Thailand to be about quality tourism," Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told Reuters. "We want the sex industry gone."

The Thai government is to focus on appealing to more female tourists, as well as expand the wedding and honeymoon sector and eco-tourism.

One project involves holding a month-long travel festival for women, which will include discounts on products and services and female-only pink immigration lanes and parking zones at airports.

Prostitution has been illegal since 1960 but underground brothels thrive across Bangkok and other popular tourist spots. The police are accused of turning a blind eye in exchange for cash.

"Experts say it will be hard to rid Thailand of an industry that is so entrenched and that provides pay-offs to untold numbers of officials and policemen," Reuters reports.

Police raided dozens of brothels in several major cities in search of underage and illegal workers last month, but only one was shut down.

The sex industry is part of a "shadow economy" that one economist estimates is worth more than two-fifths of the nation's gross domestic product, says Bloomberg.

"On the streets of Bangkok, there are undocumented and untaxed businesses everywhere," it adds. "Inside the buildings and away from the capital are darker corners of the illicit market: sex workers, gambling dens, drug smuggling and human trafficking."

Organisations supporting sex workers say the crackdown is unrealistic and accuse the military government of being in denial about the industry's contribution to the economy and tourism.

"The police presence already drives off a number of clients who come to relax or drink at bars," said Surang Janyam, director of Service Workers in Group, which provides prostitutes with free medical care and vocational training. "Wiping out this industry is guaranteed to make Thailand lose visitors and income."

Recommended

Is monkeypox here to stay?
Monkeypox virus
Talking point

Is monkeypox here to stay?

Immunity, Tunisia and Big Brother
Covid vaccine lab
Podcasts

Immunity, Tunisia and Big Brother

How Truss and Sunak would tackle a recession
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak at a debate
Getting to grips with . . .

How Truss and Sunak would tackle a recession

What next for the UK economy?
Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey faces the media on 4 August 2022
Today’s big question

What next for the UK economy?

Popular articles

Will China invade Taiwan?
Chinese troops on mobile rocket launchers during a parade in Beijing
Fact file

Will China invade Taiwan?

Is World War Three on the cards?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Is World War Three on the cards?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 August 2022
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 August 2022

The Week Footer Banner