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Pattaya Attempting Clean-Up

September 20, 2010

News ArticleThe New York Times recently published an article detailing the attempted clean-up of the sex industry’s most infamous city:  Pattaya, Thailand.  Known as a “Disneyland for pedophiles,” Pattaya is a city far too well-known for its lackadaisical approach to enforcing prostitution laws, especially when it comes to the buying and selling of children.

According to the Times’ September 15th article:

A two-hour drive from Bangkok, Pattaya was little more than a fishing village four decades ago when U.S. soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War discovered a pristine, coral-filled bay. Tens of thousands of lonely soldiers armed with dollars sought respite from the war in a country of relative poverty, lax law enforcement and historically tolerant attitudes toward prostitution. The result was predictable.

After the G.I.’s left at war’s end, Pattaya struggled to maintain its suddenly strong economy, so sex tourism was publicly advertised in places like Bangkok’s international arrival terminal.

Recently, however, Pattaya has been interested in cleaning up its act–or, at least, its image.  The city is pursuing tourists of families and couples, a music festival, and even a polo tournament.  Prospective tourists are now from growing economies in Asia, not the West where recessions have decreased the high percentage of single men traveling to Thailand.

In recent years the Pattaya tourist industry has sought to diversify its client base. Hotel managers learned that, despite jokes about recession-proof industries, relying heavily on a Western male clientele was unwise at a time when the United States and Europe were buffeted by recession…The government is encouraging the rebranding of Pattaya by developing a master plan for the city, including a monorail to help relieve traffic-clogged streets, a redrawn waterfront and a high-speed rail line from Bangkok. The plan is awaiting approval from the Thai cabinet.

In the Immigration Department, the Thais are making statements about an increase in criminal persecution.  However, in Pattaya itself, law enforcement doesn’t seem very interested.  According to the Times, the director of Pattaya’s tourism office says that cleaning up the city’s sex industry is fantasy.

“You talk about sustainable development, how about prostitutes?  They have been around for a very long time,” the director says.

His next statement is a surprisingly blunt summary of many officials’ attitudes, even in a country where, technically, prostitution is illegal:

We can’t close down the go-go bars. It’s a free country. Besides, it makes money.

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