Because of police corruption and an economic reliance spanning from the Vietnam War, prostitution remains a significant presence in the country. They usually come from the results of poverty, low levels of education, lack of local hiring, rural backgrounds, and mostly from Isaan/the northeast, from ethnic minorities or from neighboring countries, especially Myanmar and Laos.
Working in the bars of the red-light district pays more than many office jobs or other service work that the women and men in Thailand’s sex industry would otherwise qualify for. Sex work has allowed them to save money, buy themselves luxuries and support their parents and grandparents in retirements of ease.
But now the international sex industry has come to a halt.
According to government data analyzed by Dr. Yongyuth Chalamwong, research director for the Thailand Development Research Institute, an estimated 1.6 million people have returned from Thailand’s tourist areas to the countryside. Those who found a way to stay — by piling into shared rented rooms, sleeping in hallways and cutting their meals to one or two a day — are barely hanging on.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 times for this part of the travel and tourism business had been wiped out.
The black leather party masks that performers May wear for their fetish shows in Bangkok are definitely not the sort to stop the coronavirus. Performers worry that the city’s infamous Patpong red-light district could be very different if COVID-19 allows the reopening.
With restaurants closing at 9 in Bangkok or 11 pm in Pattaya, bargirls and bar boys are coming small numbers operating as waitresses or waiters in restaurants, that used to be nightclubs.
Thanks to lenient enforcement and restaurants that are legal to operate, those looking for sex workers can find them again in such restaurants. According to a report in a local newspaper, only the largest clubs in Pattaya are penalized and regulations designed to protect from COVID-19 are often becoming a farce.
There is no sex with social distancing yet, so visitors and workers in those restaurants are required to have a coronavirus antigen test before entering.
Damrongkiat Pinitkan, secretary for the Entertainment & Tourism Association of Pattaya, told the Pattaya Mail that the restaurant loophole has been welcoming news for bar workers and visitors. Restaurants are now allowed to serve alcohol again until 11 pm in Pattaya.
In the meantime, the famous Patpong in Bangkok remains mostly quiet and dry. The LGBT bar scene is no longer seen, and tourism to Amazing Thailand for those looking for this extra bit of pleasure entertainment, or for a happy Thai massage may become the fun of a distant past.