My thoughts and presuppositions on the issue of prostitution has been shaped by interactions with sailors saying these type of things.В Through in a few more interactions with Thai pimps hawking their wares to me in Bangkok–my perception has been that prostitution in SE Asia is primarily a sex tourism thing geared towards Westerners.В Maybe because I’m feeling a good deal of responsibility by association, I wanted to find out if that perception is true.

My thoughts and presuppositions on the issue of prostitution has been shaped by interactions with sailors saying these type of things.В Through in a few more interactions with Thai pimps hawking their wares to me in Bangkok–my perception has been that prostitution in SE Asia is primarily a sex tourism thing geared towards Westerners.В Maybe because I’m feeling a good deal of responsibility by association, I wanted to find out if that perception is true.
So I went to wikipedia (my favorite starting place) to see if it listed any helpful references.В The first thing I found was quite sickening: a website entitled http://bangkokredlightdistrict.com.В It’s basically a frontpage for a book that guides westerners through the ins-and-outs of a “successful” trip to the red light districts in Bangkok.В I’ll quote the second paragraph to give you a feel for it:
“The three most well-known Bangkok red light districts include Patpong, Nana Plaza, and the infamous Soi Cowboy. These three red light districts continue to thrive, giving Bangkok a constant influx of tourists from many western countries. The beauty of the women working in some of the establishments and areas, coupled with favorable exchange rates for many westerners, provide the ingredients to ensure an experience in Bangkok red light districts won’t be soon forgotten.”
Although it’s only qualitative evidence, a site like this only confirms my suspicions that sex trafficking in Thailand is linked primarily to demand created by Western sex tourism.В When I found a link to the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality I finally got some hard data.В What I found, I thought, was surprising.В A population of about 700,000 women in the commercial sex industry provides services for a clientele that is 80% Thai.В In other words, while sex tourism has made Thailand notorious, the biggest market is domestic.
While this situation strikes me as a modern form of slavery, it seemed that the Thais themselves (including upper-class women) had quite a different attitude about it.В The feeling was that prostitution had always been there and always would be there.В Married men frequently made use of prostitutes, and the women, tired out from heavy work in and outside the house (and therefore unable or unwilling to meet their husbands’ sexual demands), seemed to tolerate it.В College educated women expressed the opinion that prostitution say that prostitution “exists to protect ‘good women’ from being raped.”.
And of course, the men found prostitution to be convenient, and a part of their culture.В It was just something they did when they were hanging out with the guys; the next step after drinking or gambling together.В As the encyclopedia explained, “Thai men visit commercial sex workers after socializing with male friends, a pattern established since the start of their experience with commercial sex.”   That attitude makes prostitution seem so trivial, but then we remember that many of the women they exploit have been trafficked their and live in condititions of slavery…
I don’t mean for this discussion of Thai men to let American sailors off the hook in any way.В But I do think that it is helpful to realize that demand for sex trafficking comes from several different places, and that this is a complicated issues with lots of different stake-holders involved.
Burmese Migrant Workers: In Search for a “Better Place”
I showed my postings to a friend of mine, and she said, ” it’s too serious and depressing.” So I apologize if my blog posting makes you feel upset and depressed.
This week, I got to look at “global fund for women” website and resources related to trafficking. I found a very interesting report called, “No Status: migration, trafficking and exploitation of women in Thailand”, written by Physicians for Human Rights(PHR). I will focus on Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, and how it relates to sex trafficking.
In Thailand alone, there are around 1.3 million migrant workers, mostly from neighboring Burma, and many more are pouring in. I was struck by the news in early April 2008 that, 37 women and 17 men suffocated in an unventilated truck while traveling in the southern Thailand. Why do they risk their lives to leave the country?
The financial hardship and the lack of education in women definitely counts for the reasons why people wants to leave country unlawfully and fall prey to the traffickers. But for some ethnic minorities in Burma, those reasons aren’t enough. They have been forced to migrate to thailand because the villages has been either destroyed or relocated. Burmese government troops forcibly relocate villages of ethnic minorities in order to deprive armed ethnic groups of civilian bases of support. (The civil war between the Karen armed groups and the Burmese Army has been taken in place for more than 50 years.) Since 1996, the government has destroyed or forcibly relocated more than 2500 villages, displacing 600,000 citizens. Half of them were moved into government-controlled relocation centers, while the remainder lived in hiding in the jungles, and others have fled to thailand.

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