Nightlife Crackdown Warranted
By Devil's Advocate
I've been reading your weekly column almost religiously since it first started, always interesting to get an expat’s perspective on life in Bangkok. One thing I've noticed is the lack of dissent regarding the recent nightlife crackdown. Maybe you've gotten emails supporting the crackdown but chose not to upload them. Whatever the case, let me play devil’s advocate and say that a part of me strongly feels that it is about time the powers that be did something about the (in)famous nightlife (in particular, the prostitution and bar scenes).
First off, I do not want to portray myself as a hypocrite and must confess that I do partake in sanuk but I do care what happens to the people involved and the country as a whole.
I applaud the government’s actions to curb the abuses associated with Bangkok’s nightlife (but also in other areas). I've broken down my arguments into the following:
1) Probably number one on the government’s priorities is to clean up the reputation of Bangkok as the sex capital of the world. As you well know, Thais are a proud people and to have their country / city thought of as the world’s brothel seriously undermines their national pride. Imagine that your city or country and its people have this reputation, I would suspect most would want their government to do something about it.
2) From a social and quality of life perspective, there are definite negative elements attached to the nightlife. Disease, exploitation of children and women, and drug abuse, to name a few. It would be very hard for the government to control these problems without greater control of the nightlife scene.
3) Yes, the nightlife does bring in a lot of foreign currency and contributes to Thailand’s tourism industry. However, would the absence of the nightlife stop all the tourists? If Thailand is successful in promoting itself as a family destination then the need for these undesirable tourists would be greatly reduced.
4) One of the arguments made is that the crackdown on the nightlife industries will and has caused unemployment, especially among the poor Isaan girls. This is true in the short term but unemployment is rarely permanent. These newly unemployed will seek other jobs. The nightlife scene could very well be holding these workers back, by being a viable option. No young girl says, “I want to work at a gogo bar when I grow up,” it is thought as a temporary quick way to make money. So what would these poor girls do without the bar scene? Maybe become a factory worker, farmers, or other low-skill, menial laborer, but maybe something better, even a doctor or business executive (don’t laugh but it is possible).
One could argue that cultural and economic factors are causes for the proliferation of the nightlife industry. That may very well be the case, but culture and society can and should change for the better and letting the nightlife run amok is in no way promoting a better society.
I must add that the majority of visitors to Thailand, whether they are tourists, expats, backpackers, sex tourists, etc., are good and decent people. But I must also say that there is a small minority that are just plain disrespectful and pathetic.
Basically, the point here is that, no matter how you cut it, the nightlife scene is detrimental to the country and all its participants in the long run and should be controlled.
To put it bluntly: Stop whining about how much harder it is to get laid and stop to think how your actions are affecting others.
This is a very good piece and I agree with it in principle. For a long time,. I have suffered this moral dilemna of living and working with the Thai people, and enjoying many things about the country, but indulgences in the nightlife scene and writing about it have played on my mind from time to time.
I think the problem is that prostitution can be found in all sectors of Thai society no matter how you break them down and efforts to clean up the farang segment of the industry will contribute to cleaning up perhaps 5 – 10% of the industry as a whole. People will continue to come from abroad and they will just go to places like Rachadapisek Road where there is a huge Thai scene. Basically, it will just be a little less visible – but all fo the problems that you mentioned will remain.
In addition to this, I think there would be a GIGANTIC problem of people from overseas coming to Thailand to recruit these girls and off they would go to lands afar to work in exactly the same industry as they have been employed at home! However, being away from Thailand would create all sorts of problems with exploitation and so forth rife. It would also further contribute to the reputation that Thailand already has. The difference simply being that you no longer need to go to Thailand to find commercial sex with a Thai girl because now she has come to you!
The situation is complicated and as long as there are economic problems and poverty in Thailand, so I believe that the farang oriented commercial sex industry will continue…though it may well change.