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Struggling Sex Workers


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BANGKOK: For Anna, the Walking Street of Pattaya is more than just a famous red-light district. It was her workplace for the past 12 years.

It was here, among the rows of nightclubs, bars and massage parlours, that she and other sex workers welcomed tourists from around the world. Many people have built their lives here and others came to seek a better future.

Today, the Walking Street of Pattaya City in coastal Chonburi is no longer a place of entertainment and opportunities. Night entertainment venues that had provided jobs for many sex workers are shut. There are no bright neon lights at night and no pumping music. Tourists have vanished since last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Thailand.

“It’s so depressing,” said Anna, who is known along the Walking Street by her moniker.

“Nowadays, by 6 pm, Pattaya looks like an abandoned city. There is hardly any sign of life on the Walking Street. This makes me want to cry. This place used to generate income and build the future for so many people.”

Anna is among the hundreds of thousands of sex workers in Thailand believed to have lost their main source of income to the health crisis.

According to SWING, a local foundation that works closely with people in the industry to promote their rights and well-being, the pandemic has seriously impacted sex workers.

Many of them worked at night entertainment venues. However, the government has ordered the venues to close several times since last year, believing that they could potentially spread infections.

“Hundreds of thousands of people working as sex workers to support themselves and their families suddenly became jobless. They haven’t been taken care of by the state or received any relief money for more than a year now," said Surang Janyam, director of SWING.

"It’s hard to imagine how they can survive without any income, given that most of them live on daily earnings.”


Sex work is illegal in Thailand. Yet, the country has long been known for its thriving red-light districts in popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. 

According to Surang, there are about 200,000 sex workers in Thailand. Many of them have fought for sex work to be legalised, which would guarantee them basic labour protection and welfare enjoyed by other professions. 

“If the state listened to us, sex workers would become legal labour. So when a crisis like this occurs, there would be money from the social security fund to help them,” she said.

Most sex workers are not registered in the social security system because of the criminal nature of their job, Surang noted. This means they cannot access social security benefits, including relief money for insured employees who became jobless due to the government’s COVID-19 measures.

“We’ve been pushing for acknowledgment from the state that sex work is work and should be included in the labour law,” Surang said.

Thailand’s Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act of 1996 punishes whoever solicits or introduces themselves for prostitution with up to a 1,000-baht fine (US$30).

Sex workers can also face a jail sentence of up to two years and a fine of 10,000-40,000 baht if they advertise themselves for prostitution to the public by any means.


STARVING AND HOMELESS
Thailand is battling a persistent wave of COVID-19. Its daily new cases surged above 20,000 this month as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across the country. 

Nightclubs and bars have remained shut for several months due to restrictions to control the pandemic. Many provinces with high infection rates such as Bangkok and Chonburi have been placed under curfew between 9pm and 4am, making it even harder for sex workers to find clients.

A number of workers have struggled to survive with no income while still having to pay for food and rent and support their family. 

According to SWING, some of them have to go for days without any food. Many have unavoidably used up their savings over the past year and were forced to borrow money from loan sharks to stay afloat.

“Some sex workers who lost their job and didn’t have enough money to pay rent have been locked out of their room and have to sleep on the beach,” Anna said, adding they also risk being arrested for violating the curfew.

“So, they have to sleep in pubs and bars that have been shut, lying behind the counters at night, getting bitten by mosquitoes or getting wet when it rains.”

These days, she works part-time for SWING and helps to liaise with sex workers who need help.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has offered financial help to low-income families and helpless persons. 

“Each family will receive help worth no more than 3,000 baht, depending on the assessment of social workers or officials who pay a visit to their house for examination,” the ministry said in response to CNA’s queries on Aug 11. 

“This is offered no more than three times per financial year.” 

According to SWING, which has around 8,000 sex workers in its network in Bangkok and Pattaya, only a few of them have received help from the ministry. For those who got assistance, they only received between 1,000 baht and 2,000 baht.

“The Thai government should stop working like a charity. This should be part of their rights and state welfare benefits. To work by giving something as charity is to look down on people’s value of life,” Surang stated.


“WE DON’T KNOW IF WE’LL SURVIVE”
Since last year, SWING has provided those in need with food, water and medicine. It has also helped sex workers infected with the coronavirus to seek medical treatment.

Its headquarters in Phat Phong – one of the most renowned red-light districts in Bangkok – has transformed into an ad-hoc kitchen, where staff members prepare food handouts three times a week. 

The area, which used to come alive at night with colourful neon lights, entertainers and tourists, is now dark and empty. For Surang, the sight is heart-breaking.

"It's not just the neon lights that went out. So many lives went out too. These lights brought them income," she said. "We have to face the reality that it'll never be the same again."

In northern Thailand, Empower Foundation’s drop-in centre has been busy providing assistance to both Thai and migrant sex workers affected by COVID-19. 

The foundation has advocated sex workers’ rights, education and welfare for more than 30 years and has more than 50,000 members in its network covering different parts of Thailand.

“Sex work helped us survive,” said Arsio Laechoe who used to work in a bar in Chiang Mai before it was ordered to shut. 

“Right now, everyone is struggling to find a job, whatever we can do. Some have become shop assistants, waitresses or employees at petrol stations. Others have joined food delivery companies or construction sites. Still, there are those who can’t find any job,” she added.

Empower Foundation led a group of workers in the night entertainment industry to the Government House in Bangkok on Jun 29 to voice their frustration. They demanded monthly compensation worth 5,000 baht for every worker affected by COVID-19 until the businesses can reopen. 

They also brought with them complaint messages and high-heels belonging to their colleagues who can no longer work at night entertainment venues due to the government’s restrictions.

Asked if there has been any response from the government, Mai Junta from Empower Foundation said: “Silence”.

“Right now, many people can still fight to survive for a while but if the crisis drags on to next year, we may see what we haven’t experienced and never want to,” the member of the foundation told CNA. 

“We don’t know if we’ll survive.”

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/thailand-covid-19-sex-workers-jobless-starving-2108501

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12 hours ago, Pdoggg said:

BANGKOK: For Anna, the Walking Street of Pattaya is more than just a famous red-light district. It was her workplace for the past 12 years.

It was here, among the rows of nightclubs, bars and massage parlours, that she and other sex workers welcomed tourists from around the world. Many people have built their lives here and others came to seek a better future.

Today, the Walking Street of Pattaya City in coastal Chonburi is no longer a place of entertainment and opportunities. Night entertainment venues that had provided jobs for many sex workers are shut. There are no bright neon lights at night and no pumping music. Tourists have vanished since last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Thailand.

“It’s so depressing,” said Anna, who is known along the Walking Street by her moniker.

“Nowadays, by 6 pm, Pattaya looks like an abandoned city. There is hardly any sign of life on the Walking Street. This makes me want to cry. This place used to generate income and build the future for so many people.”

Anna is among the hundreds of thousands of sex workers in Thailand believed to have lost their main source of income to the health crisis.

According to SWING, a local foundation that works closely with people in the industry to promote their rights and well-being, the pandemic has seriously impacted sex workers.

Many of them worked at night entertainment venues. However, the government has ordered the venues to close several times since last year, believing that they could potentially spread infections.

“Hundreds of thousands of people working as sex workers to support themselves and their families suddenly became jobless. They haven’t been taken care of by the state or received any relief money for more than a year now," said Surang Janyam, director of SWING.

"It’s hard to imagine how they can survive without any income, given that most of them live on daily earnings.”


Sex work is illegal in Thailand. Yet, the country has long been known for its thriving red-light districts in popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. 

According to Surang, there are about 200,000 sex workers in Thailand. Many of them have fought for sex work to be legalised, which would guarantee them basic labour protection and welfare enjoyed by other professions. 

“If the state listened to us, sex workers would become legal labour. So when a crisis like this occurs, there would be money from the social security fund to help them,” she said.

Most sex workers are not registered in the social security system because of the criminal nature of their job, Surang noted. This means they cannot access social security benefits, including relief money for insured employees who became jobless due to the government’s COVID-19 measures.

“We’ve been pushing for acknowledgment from the state that sex work is work and should be included in the labour law,” Surang said.

Thailand’s Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act of 1996 punishes whoever solicits or introduces themselves for prostitution with up to a 1,000-baht fine (US$30).

Sex workers can also face a jail sentence of up to two years and a fine of 10,000-40,000 baht if they advertise themselves for prostitution to the public by any means.


STARVING AND HOMELESS
Thailand is battling a persistent wave of COVID-19. Its daily new cases surged above 20,000 this month as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across the country. 

Nightclubs and bars have remained shut for several months due to restrictions to control the pandemic. Many provinces with high infection rates such as Bangkok and Chonburi have been placed under curfew between 9pm and 4am, making it even harder for sex workers to find clients.

A number of workers have struggled to survive with no income while still having to pay for food and rent and support their family. 

According to SWING, some of them have to go for days without any food. Many have unavoidably used up their savings over the past year and were forced to borrow money from loan sharks to stay afloat.

“Some sex workers who lost their job and didn’t have enough money to pay rent have been locked out of their room and have to sleep on the beach,” Anna said, adding they also risk being arrested for violating the curfew.

“So, they have to sleep in pubs and bars that have been shut, lying behind the counters at night, getting bitten by mosquitoes or getting wet when it rains.”

These days, she works part-time for SWING and helps to liaise with sex workers who need help.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has offered financial help to low-income families and helpless persons. 

“Each family will receive help worth no more than 3,000 baht, depending on the assessment of social workers or officials who pay a visit to their house for examination,” the ministry said in response to CNA’s queries on Aug 11. 

“This is offered no more than three times per financial year.” 

According to SWING, which has around 8,000 sex workers in its network in Bangkok and Pattaya, only a few of them have received help from the ministry. For those who got assistance, they only received between 1,000 baht and 2,000 baht.

“The Thai government should stop working like a charity. This should be part of their rights and state welfare benefits. To work by giving something as charity is to look down on people’s value of life,” Surang stated.


“WE DON’T KNOW IF WE’LL SURVIVE”
Since last year, SWING has provided those in need with food, water and medicine. It has also helped sex workers infected with the coronavirus to seek medical treatment.

Its headquarters in Phat Phong – one of the most renowned red-light districts in Bangkok – has transformed into an ad-hoc kitchen, where staff members prepare food handouts three times a week. 

The area, which used to come alive at night with colourful neon lights, entertainers and tourists, is now dark and empty. For Surang, the sight is heart-breaking.

"It's not just the neon lights that went out. So many lives went out too. These lights brought them income," she said. "We have to face the reality that it'll never be the same again."

In northern Thailand, Empower Foundation’s drop-in centre has been busy providing assistance to both Thai and migrant sex workers affected by COVID-19. 

The foundation has advocated sex workers’ rights, education and welfare for more than 30 years and has more than 50,000 members in its network covering different parts of Thailand.

“Sex work helped us survive,” said Arsio Laechoe who used to work in a bar in Chiang Mai before it was ordered to shut. 

“Right now, everyone is struggling to find a job, whatever we can do. Some have become shop assistants, waitresses or employees at petrol stations. Others have joined food delivery companies or construction sites. Still, there are those who can’t find any job,” she added.

Empower Foundation led a group of workers in the night entertainment industry to the Government House in Bangkok on Jun 29 to voice their frustration. They demanded monthly compensation worth 5,000 baht for every worker affected by COVID-19 until the businesses can reopen. 

They also brought with them complaint messages and high-heels belonging to their colleagues who can no longer work at night entertainment venues due to the government’s restrictions.

Asked if there has been any response from the government, Mai Junta from Empower Foundation said: “Silence”.

“Right now, many people can still fight to survive for a while but if the crisis drags on to next year, we may see what we haven’t experienced and never want to,” the member of the foundation told CNA. 

“We don’t know if we’ll survive.”

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/thailand-covid-19-sex-workers-jobless-starving-2108501

Pdogg, you are in the ground in Thai, correct?

is the situation as grim as the article is saying?

I mean.... girls from the street know how to survive in their home village when things get bad.......sure they have to give up the iPhone upgrade and nice fake bag and shoes.....but life goes on.

right?

 

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1 hour ago, The-Sith said:

is the situation as grim as the article is saying?

Well Mr Sith, it's certainly heading that way. about 15 minutes ago i left a coffee shop in Jomtien which was handing out nothing but small bottles of water to a long queue waiting and growing all the time.

it is not yet at the stage of festering bodies lying in the street, but a plastic container of rice and a boiled egg  handed out once a week is not going to save people

the only thing that will do that is removing the damn stupid lockdowns.. all over the world. Accept that covid is here like many virus's before, take your chances and get on with life.

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I'm so sorry to hear that.

 

The level of violence and crime has escalated in America very recently. But it hasn't really gotten as bad in places that have remained open for 2021. Like Florida or Texas versus San Fran LA and NYC.

Thailand should just open up to tourists........so people can eat. It's like governments are trying to choke people to death.

 

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4 hours ago, The-Sith said:

Thailand should just open up to tourists........

My two bahts, if Thailand opened up its borders to tourists today, no quarantine and no jumping through hoops, I think very few people would cum.   Sure a few hearty souls but IMO it would not make a significant difference.  Perhaps the intrepid monger but the garden variety tourist doesn't want to risk hospitalisation in a foreign country in the middle of  pandemic.

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On 8/17/2021 at 11:26 AM, The-Sith said:

Pdogg, you are in the ground in Thai, correct?  

is the situation as grim as the article is saying?

I mean.... girls from the street know how to survive in their home village when things get bad.......sure they have to give up the iPhone upgrade and nice fake bag and shoes.....but life goes on.

Yes and Yes.

As BBG mentioned there is no social safety net for informal workers in Thailand.  Rent is at least 1000 baht a month and let's say food is 3000 baht.

So how can they earn 4000 baht a month?  When the choice is between eating and kissing farang, unvaccinated sex workers will risk inhaling airborne particles and kiss farang.  They figure it's probably not any more dangerous than unprotected anal sex.  But many of the few remaining farang don't seem particularly promiscuous these days eering on the side of caution.

So yes, many have returned home.

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On 8/18/2021 at 3:07 AM, Pdoggg said:

My two bahts, if Thailand opened up its borders to tourists today, no quarantine and no jumping through hoops, I think very few people would cum.   Sure a few hearty souls but IMO it would not make a significant difference.  Perhaps the intrepid monger but the garden variety tourist doesn't want to risk hospitalisation in a foreign country in the middle of  pandemic.

 

On 8/18/2021 at 3:20 AM, Pdoggg said:

Yes and Yes.

As BBG mentioned there is no social safety net for informal workers in Thailand.  Rent is at least 1000 baht a month and let's say food is 3000 baht.

So how can they earn 4000 baht a month?  When the choice is between eating and kissing farang, unvaccinated sex workers will risk inhaling airborne particles and kiss farang.  They figure it's probably not any more dangerous than unprotected anal sex.  But many of the few remaining farang don't seem particularly promiscuous these days eering on the side of caution.

So yes, many have returned home.

It's really interesting what you mention about risk.

The p4p will take the risk.

But will the customers?

One way to surely get Covid is thru intimate contact. That's how I got it. And it definitely was NOT with a p4p or even a semi amatuer. It was a totally amatuer girl who is very innocent and got it from some friends in a class she was taking (damn did I love sucking her phat mellons).

So will customers risk being with girls who were with Indian migrant workers and dirty backpackers and even filthier sex tourists over the past two weeks, potentially in the dozens?

No fucking way. Perhaps no fucking way for another 3 to 5 years.

 

 

But in terms of tourism.....the places that are hot and have opened up like FLA are doing ok. The spikes have come only this summer when people just threw caution to the wind because they though the vax would protect against everything.

 

I think opening will be good.....

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  • 3 weeks later...

A year ago, you were worried that if tourism didn't improve in Pattaya, you'd have to move back to Isaan. What led to your decision to leave the city?

The COVID situation became more severe. There were no tourists or foreigners staying in Pattaya, and I was very worried about COVID. I started to think about going home because there were almost no customers. My roommates went back home around November last year. It was sad. Our room was quiet, and I still had to pay rent for the room [on my own]. Luckily, over New Year's Eve, I made some money from a customer from Bangkok who came to Pattaya for an island holiday, and I saved it.

In early January, the bar owner decided to close the business. I wasn't sure what else to do in Pattaya. I called my mother and told her I was coming home. But I didn't leave for another [few weeks] because I was trying to find a job in a [government-designated quarantine] hotel in Pattaya, but no luck.

What was the city like on the day you left?

I was speechless. I lived in Pattaya for [six years] and never thought that Pattaya would become a deserted city. Pubs and bars that were always lit up at night are now shut down. The beach is lonely without tourists. At night, the beach has become a place for people [who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19] to sleep, and others go there to donate food to the homeless. When I think about it, my heart aches. I'm happy I survived.

Before the pandemic, you had dreams of saving enough money in Pattaya to buy more farmland for your family and starting your own rubber tree plantation in Isaan. How much of a dent did the pandemic put in your savings?

I only had a small amount of money left. I had about 10,000 baht [$300] saved and used it to pay off my rent in Pattaya. I sent some money [in advance] to my mother for the expenses of my two sons, about 3,000 baht [$100].

What was it like when you first got home to your province?

When I returned to my hometown, I still couldn't stay at our home. I had to report to the village leader and was required to quarantine for 14 days. My mother sent me to live on our [small] rubber plantation. She sent me some food and drinking water.

After the quarantine period was over, I was able to go home. I didn't have much to do apart from [helping my mom with her] rubber plantation. I was frustrated because I didn't know what to do next with my life. I began to look for work, starting with applying for a job as a Grab rider [a motorcycle-delivery and ride-hailing app]. There are not many restaurants for food-delivery service in my hometown, so most of my job was picking up passengers or parcels. It did not earn much money but was better than staying home and earning nothing.

I was also picking up a few shifts at the 7-Eleven and working as a life insurance agent.

Your mom and sons depended on your income as a sex worker to supplement their living expenses. How did they survive when you returned to Isaan and did not have a steady job?

Living at home without any money [in Isaan] is not as difficult as living in Pattaya. In the countryside, we own a house so we don't need to pay rent. My mother grows vegetables for herself. Sometimes we buy meat from the market, and the price of fresh food is not expensive like in Pattaya. Last year, my mother leased half of her rubber plantation to some farmers, so she made enough cash to live on.

What are you doing now?

I [started] working as an accounting officer at a hospital [in early July]. My friend told me that the hospital was looking for staff. I had to take an accounting exam to be able to apply. I wanted this job because I intended to [make enough money to] continue improving our house.

Before the pandemic, you said your job in Pattaya's red-light district earned you more money than from your previous office job. Are you making enough money in your office position now?

I'm a full-time employee with a monthly income. The salary may not be much, but there are health care, child's education and pension benefits.

How does COVID continue to affect you?

I'm afraid I will be infected with COVID because there are infected patients who come to the hospital. I protect myself by wearing a double mask.

What is life like for you now?

My routine has changed. On the weekends, I have time to be with my family. I'm making new friends. [Instead of going to bed late because of my evening shift at the bar], I get up early and go to a daytime job. It's funny — I used to complain that someday I would have to sleep like a normal person!

Do you miss anything about Pattaya?

Party life, handsome men, drinking with friends. I hardly drink now because of my new profession, but I miss it so much.

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2 hours ago, Pdoggg said:

What is life like for you now?

My routine has changed. On the weekends, I have time to be with my family. I'm making new friends. [Instead of going to bed late because of my evening shift at the bar], I get up early and go to a daytime job. It's funny — I used to complain that someday I would have to sleep like a normal person!

Do you miss anything about Pattaya?

Party life, handsome men, drinking with friends. I hardly drink now because of my new profession, but I miss it so much.

It sounds to me like she is better off now.

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Yes it does in a way. But!.

The story is very similar to one a girl I know who had to make the trip back to Isaan a few months ago. She has had enough and headed back to Pattaya last night. Could not stand the boredom and lack of money. Her friends tell her that there is some work back at the bar. Only time will tell if she has done the right thing.

Just hope that in 3 or 4 weeks time that she is not heading back to Isaan.

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On 9/9/2021 at 10:13 AM, Pdoggg said:

I'm a full-time employee with a monthly income. The salary may not be much, but there are health care, child's education and pension benefits.

The girls might be missing the buzz, bright lights, booze and handsum men. But those have gone now (apart from bbg!).

They don't actually need the latest phone, knock off handbags and new sexy clothes.

Unfortunately it seems many Thais don't think much beyond tomorrow. 

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