AUTHORITIES in Thailand are clamping down on prostitution in the country amid the Tourism Ministry’s bid to purge its reputation as a prime commercial sex destination.
Police have begun mounting raids on brothels in Bangkok in recent weeks, targeting well known establishments in the kingdom’s capital.
Despite the appeal of Thailand’s sex industry among foreigners, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said it is not the main attraction among tourists to the country.
“Tourists don’t come to Thailand for such a thing. They come here for our beautiful culture,” Kobkarn was quoted saying to Reuters, as reported in the Straits Times.
It was pointed out that Thailand’s tourism is driven by its picturesque beaches and ancient Buddhist temples for decades and the ministry is expecting larger arrivals this year compared to previous years.
“We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone,” Kobkarn said.
While the majority seeking commercial sex in the country is comprised mainly of Thai men, foreign tourists are also among those who contribute significantly to the industry in Thailand.
On average, Thailand receives around 10 million tourists annually, of which some 60 percent stood among males, according to World Outreach International.
The organization estimated that 70 percent of male tourists who visit Thailand come specifically for sex – which means approximately 4.2 million men have flocked to the predominantly conservative Buddhist country for sex tourism over the last few years.
Prostitution in Thailand is a thriving industry, although it is largely illegal.
Despite the spate of raids and arrests in recent weeks, a police spokesperson told Reuters that the clampdown was not related to the ministry’s effort to drive the sex industry out. Instead, the authorities were looking for establishments which employed underage and illegal foreign workers.
An organization that provides sex workers with medical support and vocational training, called Service Workers in Group (Swing), believes the nation’s revenue would be affected by the move.
“Wiping out this industry is guaranteed to make Thailand lose visitors and income,” its director Surang Janyam said. “If they want to close the sex industry, they must first have jobs ready to support the sex workers.”