Prostitution in Thailand: News from the Formicary – There are NO prostitutes in Thailand
Yes, it is official; there are no prostitutes or poor people in Thailand.
I have kept the news to myself for long enough – there is a legitimate public need to know – there are no prostitutes or poor people in Thailand. If by ‘publishing’ this I open myself up to prosecution so be it (I
will seek asylum – future mail can be sent to me at any of the embassies of the Republic of Vanuatu (population 243,304, area 12,190 sq km) the republic’s police force has a paramilitary wing – hence my choice.
Now do I know there are no prostitutes or poor people in Thailand? I / we were assured that this is the truth by Ant and her then friend (Small) Da. Da and Ant made this assurance in a lengthy discussion some years ago (early in my legal
marriage to Ant). Present were myself (legal) husband of Ant and Manny (then legal husband of Da) and Small Da (now divorced). The discussion took place in my / our living-room here in the Formicary in London. Unfortunately no minutes were
made of the discussion.
Both Manny and I were confused. We know the statistics which are readily available on the Internet. (We know them as well as we know the location of all of Mr. Weston Union’s offices between here and Baffin Island).
We knew for example that a doctor from Chulalongkorn University gives an estimate of a total of 2.8 million sex workers in Thailand (the figure however may be inaccurate due to the use of poor research methods – i.e. those methods
used to produce ‘Official Statistics’ by Thai governments and the role of the Police Benevolent Fund in the production of those statistics. (
See for example).
In addition, Wikipedia suggests “Although centers such as Bangkok (Patpong, Nana Plaza, and Soi Cowboy), Pattaya, and Phuket (Patong) are often identified as primary tourist "prostitution" areas, with Hat Yai and other
Malaysian border cities catering to Malaysians, prostitution takes place in nearly every major city and province in the country.” I could have added even every village, hamlet and lightly wooded area of the smiley Kingdom. (Perhaps
I should put in a submission about the time I spent on a rice farm somewhere near(ish) Chang Ria and the lady who was keen to talk to me because she had been to England. When I asked where in England, she said, “Vienna”. You
Any discussion of prostitution whether it about its extent, relative prevalence or causes is redundant.
Ant and Da (small) were and are trenchant in asserting that there are NO prostitutes (or poor people) in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The conversation began normally enough – just two couples on a Sunday afternoon having a few nibbles to eat and a few drinks. Well normal if you ignore the facts that the two wives came from entirely different areas of the homeland,
that the homeland was 5,930 air miles away and that the two husband did then ‘not know each other from Adam’ and that the four individuals had only been brought together by a chance meeting in a pub on the Kilburn High Road a
few weeks previous. (Ant and I had not been married that long and I was keen for Ant to have friends outside of the Formicary – perhaps a mistake but then who knows. “Look Ant I think that lady Thai. “Ant, “What
you talk about? You want Thai lady? No bad man.” Shortly later. Ant, “She Philippine.” “But Ant she have Thai gold bracelet.” “OK, I go talk.” The rest as they say is history. I’ll put
on record that perhaps the best ‘thing’ to have come out of my colonisation by Thailand has been my enduring friendship with Manny, (small) Da’s then husband).
Inevitably and quickly the conversation turned to Thailand (it had to as it was the one thing the four individuals had in common).
Being young and naive (I was then only fifty-one after all), I think it was me who first mentioned ladies and Thailand. It was however only to open the conversation out by indicating that there was more to Thailand than simply centres
such as Bangkok (Pat Pong, Nana Plaza, and Soi Cowboy), Pattaya, and Phuket (Patong) which have indeed been identified (by Wikipedia) as “primary tourist "prostitution" areas.” I was actually interested in places to
go in Thailand.
I was shocked when Da (small) said, and this is a real and direct quote, “There are no prostitutes in Thailand.”
There was silence.
Inwardly, I had many thoughts – I was surprised that it was not Ant who had made the statement (I had already grown used to surprise statements by Ant (such as telling, me several months after our (legal) marriage, that the old
bird I had been introduced to as being her mother was not in fact her mother). I had taken such surprises to ‘be’ Ant rather a Thai-wide culture craziness thing. I also wondered whether I had more to drink than I thought or that
perhaps I had stumbled into a space / time vortex that had landed me in an alternative universe where there was a country called Thailand where there were no prostitutes. Further, I wondered if there were no prostitutes in Thailand because
Ant and Da were in England.
Mercifully it was left to Manny to challenge his wife’s statement. As he is a direct fellow, and here I think I quote Manny accurately, he asked, “What the f@%k are you talking about Da?”
The statement was repeated.
The conversation took a circular form. “What the f%*king hell are you talking about?” Met by repetition of the statement. You know how it goes – we have all been there.
Seeing a fellow country person under pressure Ant joined in. “There are no prostitutes in Thailand. You look my country down. I die for my King etc etc.”
By this point we were maybe 30 minutes into the conversation. I had been relatively silent (I’m a reserved bloke). But I genuinely kind of thought that this might, just might be a linguistic issue. I got out the English / Thai
dictionary that Ant and I had purchased in Pattaya. In those days I thought that many of the issues (no let’s face it problems) between myself and Ant were linguistic (I don’t think this now).
The word “Prostitute” was looked up and shown to Ant and Da (small). Now it might be that I had purchased the worst English / Thai dictionary on this planet and the definition of “prostitute” offered by the
dictionary was, “Prostitute. Noun: A line with a plumb attached to it, used for finding the depth of water or determining the vertical of an upright surface.” Or what could it have said? Really what?
I’m relatively confident that the dictionary had offered a fairly accurate definition, such as, “Prostitute. Noun: Man or woman (but not beast of the field) who offers sexual services for a monetary consideration. (Note,
beasts of the field are excluded due to a 15th Century Papal edict and them not having bank accounts into which their fees can be deposited).”
The dictionary was of no help. Ant and Da (of whatever size) persisted with one voice, “There are no prostitutes in Thailand.”
I had near had enough. But I felt that this might be to do with (national) ‘face’. So I introduced a perhaps face saving comment that poverty might be the cause / explanation of prostitution in Thailand. I didn’t
really believe it then and I sure as doddie don’t believe it now.
This did nothing to salve the argument – Isaan whiskey not water on the flames.
Da lead again, "There are no poor people in Thailand.” Ant agreed.
Manny gave examples of poor people in Thailand: individuals such as ‘the slug’ on Sukhumvit or categories such as rice farmers. This only drew the comment from Da that, ”OK, some poor people in Thailand but they all
from Cambodia.” Ant agreed.
Why apart from anything else choose Cambodia? In the same ways that Cambodians were chosen as being the ‘boys in black’ in the spot of bother in Bangkok in the not very distant past. Why?
As an aside, the issue of the ‘boys in black’ caused a sizable rift here in the Formicary. Ant would not have it that they might, just might be Thai Special Forces – “They soldiers same me, die for the King
blah blah blah.” Anyway why Cambodians? I thought the natural enemy was Burma? (Yeah, I know the name has changed, so what).
Manny managed the only sensible comment of the afternoon, “So what if they’re Cambodians. They’re poor and they’re in Thailand.”
Da and Ant in perfect harmony, “There are no prostitutes or poor people in Thailand. Really WHAT was going on??? To this day have no idea.
The meeting broke up.
Manny and I went down the pub. I didn’t come back to the Formicary for two days – no not drinking, just checked into a local hotel. I needed to be Thai! That is just not think too much.
All of this may not square with your personal experience. Look you may say, “Who was that person I spent a night with in Bangkok / wherever in the kingdom? Why didn’t she look shocked or offended when I gave her money in
All I can say is that these cross-cultural misunderstanding take place. The lady(s) was probably too embarrassed to refuse the money and will with all certainly will return the currency soon and if you change hotels or leave the Kingdom
she will track you down (at her own expense) and return the dosh – however long it takes. Now you may understand why she was so keen on exchanging telephone numbers, email addresses and importantly bank account numbers – she was just
being prudent, after all we can all make mistakes. You really are hunsum man, just like she said.
It was as a result of the conversation, eleven and a half years ago, that I realised that I had unwittingly wandered into a society of crazed fruit bats (I already had an inkling of this but this conversation was a confirmation).
This is a true story! What was going on? I really mean it – what was going on? Please, please help. I mean it.
On a personal note; having, late last June, been stroked by the butterfly wings of fateful dream-time I’ve had many medical appointments. Last week’s blood tests (is the NHS full of vampires?) indicated clogging of some
arteries – with something of a strangely pinkish colour (In fact the shade of Mr. Weston Union’s receipt sheets). I understood. Also my upper torso and arms showed small bite marks (as if from small lizards) and more pronounced
wounds (as if from much larger reptilian creatures) and most worrying of all, pronounced shadows on my heart (which seemed to spell out the word Nanthana). Anyway, the medical team were confused (I understood – but it’s perhaps
best to keep that kind knowledge to oneself). Anyway, I’m off to hospital in the next few days to baffle medical science. Perhaps Ant will be lucky woman or perhaps that’s not all folks.
Just remember, there are no prostitutes or poor people in Thailand and you’ll avoid those embarrassing social gaffs.
I am Martin (still).