A simple case of economic exploitation of the poor by the rich. It could be stopped tomorrow by banning the tourists who arrive in Bangkok to find themselves a working girl and by closing all the bars who sell beer and the promise of “more”. Only it’s a lot more complex than that.
There is nothing I can say in a few sentences that can provide a balanced view. I don’t condone a situation where women feel they have no choice but to sell their bodies, but neither do I agree with those who say that the answer is to boycott Thailand until the government “does something about it”. The only people who would suffer in the short term are the girls, and their families for whom the sex industry offers their only source of income.
Thailand is growing fast economically and opportunities for Thai people are increasing all the time. The more jobs there are in more legitimate businesses, the greater the chance that young women can choose what they do to make a living.
In the meantime, if you are in Thailand and you visit the bars, make sure you tip generously and treat the girls with the respect they deserve. You will encounter warmth, humour, resilience and a pride that they are taking care of people they love. As Buddhists, they truly believe that this life may be tough but they will get their reward in the next.
The final word should of course go to the girls themselves. Before you make up your mind about the Thai sex industry you should check out the Empower foundation at http://www.empowerfoundation.org/index_en.html. Also look out for their video on You Tube, Last Rescue in Siam, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70rPAxLFFKU