Thailand’s first female minister of tourism wants the sex trade banned. Critics say the plan is shortsighted.
It’s clear many officials and law enforcement have turned a blind eye for decades. This could be changing. Thailand’s first female minister of tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, recently called for an end to the debauchery. “We want Thailand to be about quality tourism,” she told Reuters. “We want the sex industry gone.”
Kobkarn’s proclamation came after police raided dozens of brothels last month, though only one establishment was shut down, with 100 workers arrested, including 15 who were underage.
Advocates for sex workers say the plan to shutter their trade would impoverish them. While Thailand’s minimum wage is 300 baht ($8.59) a day, street prostitutes can earn, per transaction, around 1,200 baht ($34). For bar-based go-go girls, the fee is around $85.
The advocates emphasize that people work in the business out of necessity, not desire. “[They] only lack opportunities, which made them undertake [this] work in the first place,” Chantawipa Apisuk, director of an NGO that provides assistance to Thai sex workers, told the Bangkok Post. Chantawipa supports the legalization of prostitution for the official protections it would afford workers, while other activists say they welcome the ban—but only if the government has jobs ready for the newly unemployed.