Looking to dispute their city’s reputation as
the world’s sex capital, Pattaya police went out
Wednesday night and found a room full of
Despite the discovery of illegal sex workers on the second floor of a club, Pattaya’s police commander on Thursday dismissed a report in a British tabloid that approximately one in every five of its permanent residents is a commercial sex worker.
“We don’t have information about such a high number of prostitutes,” police Col. Apichai Krobphet said Thursday, referring to the prostitute population of 27,000 cited by the Mirror. “I don’t know where did they got that from.”
The Mirror story, published online Feb. 16, described the coastal enclave as a “modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah” but did not cite any sources for the figure. The report was picked up by many domestic news outlets and even scored a mention from Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday after his weekly cabinet meeting, Prayuth challenged them on why they believed what foreign media wrote. Still, Prayuth also said he ordered raids on the city’s plentiful brothels.
To show their efforts, police Wednesday raided a bar called Club 4, where an illegal, second-floor operation was selling sex to foreign tourists. Owner Chayanuch Laokliew, 36, was charged with pandering.
A fine of 2,000 baht was divided equally between the sex worker and the bar, with each paying half, the city’s deputy district chief said.
Sex workers found as police raid a bar illegally providing prostitution in Pattaya Wednesday
Contacted Thursday to clarify his claim, Apichart backtracked.
“They might have gotten the wrong information. It must come from a misunderstanding,” he said before claiming he had to go to a meeting and hanging up the phone.
Pattaya is a famous destination for sex tourists, but outside of its red light districts, the area enjoys a dual identity as a vacation spot for Thai families. Over the years, several campaigns have been launched to refashion the city’s reputation as a family-friendly locale.
Thailand has approximately 123,530 commercial sex workers, according to a 2014 UNAIDS report. Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul last year vowed to bring an end to the sex industry, as she believed that was not what attracts tourists to the country.
In 2016, Pattaya broke its own record, arresting 15 suspected pimps and 2,185 suspected prostitutes, according to provincial police commander Somprasong Yenthuam.
PATTAYA IMAGE PLAN:
From 'SIN CITY' to FAMILY RESORT.
The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta) is aiming to strengthen local tourism in Pattaya and improve the city's image among foreign tourists.
Dasta deputy director-general Taweebhong Wichaidit said a plan is in progress to change Pattaya's image from a "sin city" to a family entertainment destination.
Officials are promoting tourism areas such as Baan Chark Ngaew, Takien Tia, Nong Prue, Nong Pla Lai, Huay Yai, Khao Chee Jan and Khao Mai Kaew, all of which offer scenic views of nature.
Tourists in these areas can experience the local lifestyle away from Pattaya's nightlife and beaches in places such as Baan Chark Ngaew, a 100-year-old Chinese community.
Mr Taweebhong said the effort to change Pattaya's image may be difficult, but Dasta will work to promote alternative tourism for Thai and international travellers who want to see authentic local culture and nature.
"We aim to strengthen local communities to generate more tourist revenue within two years, and then they will be stronger in using their assets to present themselves as new tourist attractions," he said.
Dasta is trying to create local tourist attractions and activities and revitalise nature sites to attract both local and foreign travellers.
Baan Chark Ngaew represents Chinese vintage life, while Nong Prue shows a religious and cultural dimension with a mix of Christian, Buddhist and Muslim influences.
Khao Chee Jan is home to 11 royal projects conforming with the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's sufficiency economy philosophy.
"I strongly believe that Chon Buri's designated areas will offer more dimensions to Thais and international travellers in the future," Mr Taweebhong said.
Dasta always focuses on designated areas to help distribute income to local communities and reduce poverty.
It will let the Tourism Authority of Thailand present the new tourist attractions.
Dasta has worked more than five years to push community-based tourism and aims to distribute tourism revenue to 2,500 districts nationwide in 2017, up from 1,500 districts last year.