EVERY night the dark streets, seedy clubs and pleasure dens of Pattaya are filled with tourists, many of them Australian, drawn by the dark temptations of Thailand’s premier vice city.
But these pleasure-seeking tourists could soon find themselves out of luck. Thai police appear to be making good on promises to clean up Pattaya, the so-called sex capital of the world, with more late-night raids of the city’s nightclubs and illegal brothels.
Photos have emerged of a bloodied British tourist lying on the side of the road after reportedly brawling with at least one sex worker amid a police raid at the Star Agogo club in Pattaya’s red light district on Saturday. Witnesses said the drunk man, who was aged in his 60s, had been kicked out of the venue.
During the raid on the club police arrested two naked dancers — who were in the midst of a bubble bath performance — on suspicion of committing indecent acts in public. Punters were ordered to leave as the venue was shut down.
On Valentine’s Day, police carried out a series of crackdowns across Pattaya’s red light district in an effort to make tourists feel safer.
A British tourist was reportedly left red-faced after he was sprung by police sharing a private room with a sex worker during a raid at the Windmill Club A-Go-Go.
Previous raids in recent months have seen police storm pubs and clubs, drug testing patrons and seizing drugs, tobacco and shishas.
There are believed to be about 27,000 sex workers in Pattaya. Many of them can be found on Pattaya’s infamous Walking Street, a two-kilometre strip lined with go-go bars and pleasure dens.
“Pattaya central looks a bit like a very naughty Noosa or a rather horny Hervey Bay. Rather than retired couples, hundreds of — usually extremely overweight — older white western men walk around with young Thai girlfriends.“
“There’s lots of white men here — about 100,000 of us, or one to every three Thais. There’s also white sand, luxury white condos, teeth whitening dentists everywhere, make-up adverts promising to whiten Thai girls skin, and Thai money-boys wearing that same face-whitening foundation — as they squeak “massage sir?” while making open-mouth, blow job gestures to every male who walks past.”
Officially, prostitution is illegal and fully-nude entertainment is banned. Human rights groups have also raised alarms about exploitation and human trafficking in Thailand’s sex industry, but authorities have long turned a blind eye to these dark deeds, fuelling Pattaya’s reputation for lawlessness.
But that’s changing. Police Colonel Apichai Grobpet, who lead this week’s raids, said police would continue to clean up the city and make it safe for tourists.
“Anything illegal we will stop and punish those people,” he said.
Thailand has gotten serious about clamping down on bad behaviour across the country, including by carrying out late-night raids and mass arrests in Pattaya, following the appointment of the country’s first female tourism minister.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul vowed to shut down Pattaya’s problematic sex industry, which would its infamous ladyboys, go-go dancers and ping-pong shows.
“Tourists don’t come to Thailand for such a thing,” she said.
“They come here for our beautiful culture. We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone.”
However, some have warned a clampdown on vice in Pattaya could devastate the economy, which is still reeling from a 2014 recession, and leave thousands out of work, including prostitutes who often use their income to help support their families.
But others say the local sex industry — which is believed to date back to the Korean and Vietnam wars, when foreign troops would be stationed nearby — would simply be forced underground.