Stickman's Weekly Column August 25th, 2002

Why Shouldn’t She Work Overseas?




I really like Thailand and I really like Thai people. I want the best for a country which allows me to lead a very pleasant life here. Like everywhere, there are things that I like, and things that I don't like. And these things don't remain static. Some things that I used to like, I no longer like and some things that never really appealed to me, now may hold some appeal. One of the things that I am not so fond of, for I constantly see the many problems that it causes, is Thailand's naughty nightlife. All of the associated problems that are inherent with prostitution worldwide – and are just as prevalent here in Thailand as anywhere else, though perhaps less visible, cause Thailand, Thai society and Thai people, no end of problems. Prostitution is one of the biggest social problems in Thailand.

But the reality of the situation, the real problem, is that there is no end in sight to prostitution in Thailand. Thailand's economy is improving, but only slowly. And let's face it, Thailand remains a relatively poor country with a distribution of wealth that sees a good percentage of the country attempting to survive on next to nothing. While the economy may indeed be improving, just who is reaping the benefits? The poor, those huge numbers of people who really do need the money the most, see little or no evidence of the economic revival. And as long as this situation prevails – and there really is no reason to see it changing – prostitution will continue to thrive in Thailand. The sector of the prostitution industry that targets Thai men will quite possibly continue ad infinitum, for it is virtually accepted as part of the Thai man's culture. The sector that targets farangs will continue, because the girls who work in this sector, predominantly from the Isaan region, really have no other options. There is very little work about for them, and even if they were to accept a position up in the Northeast, this type of work invariably pays very poorly.

Many girls from the Northeast board the bus to Bangkok and within days of arriving in the big city, they have experienced a million new things, but sadly, very few of them good. The youthful innocence that made them so attractive and is common in young, rural Thais is quickly lost as they are forced to sink or swim in an industry that takes no prisoners. The young maidens of Isaan are quickly marred as the industry uses them, abuses them, but fails to adequately compensate them. They quickly become marred, but they don't become rich. Something is wrong!

That's the problem that so many of these girls face. Prostitution provides them with but temporary relief. They simply do not make enough money to make any real difference in their life, yet the industry damages them so harshly, that they may exit it, if they are able to, in a daze, wondering quite what happened. They went through all of that hell….for what?!

So, the question that must be asked is, does an alternative exist? As far as employment opportunities go in Thailand, yes, there are many alternatives, but let's face it, they pay miserably. One can survive, but one will never get ahead, and a life time on the treadmill in a dead end job appeals to no-one.

If these girls are going to suffer so terribly, is it not fair to expect that they should be compensated? I believe that for the massive amount of damage that these girls suffer, they should be rewarded with an income commensurate with the task. With this in mind, I just wonder if it is perhaps better if they were to go and work overseas, and give up working this job in Thailand, where the vast majority of girls, at least those girls who work in the farang sector of the industry, do not make so much money one must look at alternatives. Farangland is a real alternative.

I'm totally against the idea of organized prostitution and I am absolutely totally against the idea of bonded labour. However, as an alternative, is it so bad that these girls consider working abroad, to make enough money that they could truly get themselves set up for life? I once wrote how I consider it cruel to take these girls away from a country that is so nice, where people are so friendly and where the needs of the community and harmony amongst all are put first. However, no money means problems, and if the girl has already made the decision to work in this industry – and hell, I wish none of them had to do that – a short period of time in Farangland might give her a real opportunity to set herself up for life.

So, how does it all work? How do these girls who want to go and work illegally manage to get into Farangland when the average guy has all sorts of problems trying to get his girlfriend in legitimately.

First, they generally get in through highly organised means. A person or persons generally will do all the leg work for them including application for the passport, visas, documents etc. This is by no means a small task and takes a lot of co-ordination.

As far as Australia goes, and that is the country which has been easiest to research, and the country which all of the following info applies to, in order to get a visa to go there, they need money in the bank, usually 20 – 50K baht and they need a very definite reason to return, which may take the form of a letter from an employer, proof or university enrolment etc. But where does this sort of money come from, because your average rural Thai girl does not have this sort of money sitting idle in a bank account. Such funds usually sit idle in the form of a TV or a motorbike…

You guessed it, the money is usually deposited on their behalf and is taken out and returned to the organiser once the visa has been issued. Following this money is needed for the ticket, which again is paid by the organisers, and in most instances someone will escort them on the flight and through immigration at the other end. Remember, these are rural girls with a modest education who have most likely never been on a plane before, almost certainly never travelled abroad before and in some cases, might not be able to even read or write Thai, let alone English!

At this point the cost has already amounted to around $Aust. 2,000 (two Bangkok to Australia return air tickets) and accommodation will need to be provided in order to reduce problems clearing immigration. Are the folks who organise everything prepared to take the risk of paying this much in advance, knowing that there is a chance that she might do a runner, or get second thoughts at any time? Ahhh, that is factored in… Before she leaves for Farangland, the girl will need to sign over something, possibly a house or something of significant value, for if she skips then she, or as is so often the case, someone in her family will forfeit their asset. This should be looked as some sort of security deposit.

So does the girl know what she is getting herself in for? The basic explanation is that she will be required to have sex with farangs up to 5 times day for lots of money and that once she has paid back what she owes, which could be in the realm of $15k to $40k ($25K seems to be standard), depending upon how greedy the operators are, she will be able to make some good money for herself too. The explanation, if given like this, would be basically true, although the figure quoted, as you will soon see, may be a little on the low side…

So the big moment arrives and she somehow manages to slip into that corner of Farangland. If arrangements haven't already been made, the organiser will make a few calls and then begins the peddling. Word on the street is that there are about 30 odd places in Sydney that would take girls like this but only about 10 or so who would have the $$ to take her on outright. So the set up and arrangement can sometimes differ and this is usually where things go wrong.

If the organisers are lucky enough to secure a deal with one of the more lucrative establishments, they may get their money and cut the girl loose. The organiser is now out of the equation. Now the real work begins and the poor girl will have to work all the hours that God sends with no respite. At this stage, they may let her keep one day's work per which for expenses or which she could send back to Thailand, or they may require her to work off her debt in its entirety, as fast as is humanly possible, before she makes a cent for herself.

The alternate situation would involve the organisers securing an establishment that will take a moderate cut of her customer take and allow her to send a substantial amount back to them. Don't forget that they have a deed which will not be returned until the money is paid. Here they can do as they please. Most enforce a deadline of 4 weeks to pay the money back which means that by the time she has finished paying off the debt, her visa, which is invariably of the one month variety, will have expired.

So, what is the earning potential for a girl in such a place and can she make a significantly higher amount than if she was doing a comparable job in Thailand? In Sydney, Australia, the average customer pays about $100 to $130 per 30 min session which is around 2300 – 3000 baht. This is far, far more than the average girl can make in Thailand. And when you consider that they do this several times a day, the potential to make big money is very, very real.

As with the industry in Thailand, so much of it depends on how pretty she is and where she ends up working. What amounts to little more than brothels in the inner city run at around $100 – $130 for the 30 minute session while those in the suburbs are more reasonably priced at $80 – $100, still way more expensive than in Thailand.

The potential earnings for Thai girls working abroad are exceptionally high. It doesn't matter what currency you are talking about, these girls have the opportunity to make EXTREMELY SERIOUS AMOUNTS OF MONEY. I have heard the story of one Thai girl who was working in Australia and was sending home $Aust. 4k – 5k every 2 weeks! And what is amazing here is that she was not even working that much, only four days per week – and she was spending money in Australia too! Obviously this was following her, shall we call it, probation period. One girl sent home approximately $Aust 60K in a six month period, which amounts to almost 1.5 million Thai baht, a very serious amount of money in Thailand, enough to buy a decent house for the entire family and still leave plenty to invest in a business and retain some cash in the bank as a financial buffer. Whether or not the money is spent prudently or not however is altogether another question, and one which I won't discuss here…

If the girl is shrewd and plays the damsel in distress role well, she can milk customers with the very same story that the girls use in Thailand with stories of sick siblings and dead buffaloes. Some guys have been known to drop $2k on these ladies and not blink an nor expect anything in return. If she finds a good customer, she might get taken out of the scene and she may decide Australia is the place to stay although the chances of must be fairly low. Knowing she has over stayed her visa, Immigration will be looking for her and a relationship will be fraught with even more hurdles.

Now if shit happens, if the girl flips out and can not take the 50 per week pounding, and man, that has really got to screw with her brain, there are dreadful consequences… If she runs she will most likely lose the whatever assets were put up in the first place back home, invariably the deed to the farm, and she'll lose a hell of a lot of face back home. Basically, if things go bad, not only does she suffer, but her whole family might suffer too.

Let's assume that the average girl with average looks makes around $3k per week and the average price is $100 – 30 minutes she gets $60 per session so that's about 50 customers per week, minimum. This is seriously high traffic! Seven guys a day on average, perhaps many more on a busy day. These girls are getting some serious mileage…..VERY serious mileage!

There are unfortunately other issues that the girls are not usually made aware of. Back to the first situation where the establishment basically owns the girl, issues arise if she isn't in demand. What can happen is that the establishment sells her off to another establishment for a new price, inevitably higher than what they paid for her e.g. if they paid $20k they may try and get $40k from the next establishment and of course, she is expected to pay that $40k off!

If she works at a place that is full of Thai girls and she is prettier, better etc, then she may find the other girls getting jealous and these girls are often prepared to do anything to upset the balance, notwithstanding that they are a bunch of Thais, fighting to survive in another country. Immigration is a big concern and they play these stupid games threatening to dob each other in to Immigration. After 30 days she is illegal and will be deported if caught. Given that it may take most of these 30 days to pay off their "debt", everything after that is cream but with a significant risk attached.

The figures quoted here are what Thai girls can AND DO make in Australia right now. Figures in other, wealthier countries, such as the UK and Japan, where armies of Thai girls currently ply their trade, are much, much higher. Plenty of Thai girls both charge and get several hundred pounds for a "long time" experience in the UK. Even at 500 pounds sterling, that is well in excess of 30,000 baht, more than many girls make in Thailand in a whole month!

The temptation for a girl to go and work abroad must be huge and in many ways, one can see why they would choose to do it. The lure of huge amounts of cash, enough to change not only their lives, but those of their entire family is a carrot that must be hugely tempting. But like everything in this horrible, horrible industry called prostitution, there are all sorts of inherent problems. If a girl was somehow able to overcome these issues, and they can not be underestimated, then she really could do very, very well for herself by choosing to work in a foreign country for a few months.

Where is this pic?

A street vendor….but which one?

Last week's picture was taken outside the TEFL International Teacher's training course in Bahn Pe, near the pier to Ko Samet. Well done to the handful of people who got it right!

Where is he?

I live in 10-buck-2, a quaint little “big” city somewhere in the Kingdom. I escaped Pattaya about 5 months ago leaving behind my bar girlfriend (admitted, who I am still in love with and from whom I still get occasional tearful phone calls at 4 AM). My home town (which remains nameless for now) contains about 200k people, from which we “the farangs” number about 15 (that I know of). I was struck by this city as unspoiled from foreign poisons. We have neither McDonalds nor KFC. The people have extended to me a tremendous amount of friendship that is unparalleled to anywhere else I have been. And I want make a very specific point about the working girls between the two towns – here and Pattaya. The girls in Pattaya have the power. They conspire well together to defraud the Pattaya man. I had seen this when I was there. In fact, the Pattaya girls lie and cover-up with such unity that they basically believe their own stories – and the men buy it. If a man goes around (behind the back of his girl) the Pattaya working girl is quick and flippant about telling that man's girl. Be that as is may be – here in 10-buck-2, the working girls are kept under strict control. The man has the power in this town. A working girl doesn’t get out of line here otherwise bad things happen to her (so I’m told). The working girls here are relatively few and are kept out of sight. I’m told that these girls (ones who work at an establishment) are recruited from out of town and when their time is up they are sent back to their home town. Another minor group of working girls are in the Karaoke bars – some will go off with you and other won't. The working girls are almost not seen in public or they just don’t stand out. Most of it happens behind closed doors and out of sight. If you didn’t know where to look, you would never see them at all.
Lazy, the lot of them…
You know how the general consensus among farang who visit Thailand is that Thais are lazy? Well, I can now honestly prove that this belief is worldwide and not confined to just Westerners. I have an Asian lady friend going to college in Europe and, out of the blue she mentioned that her friends and she believe that Thais "do not study in school. They count on marriage to be their way to success". I had to laugh.
Sounds a bit on the high side to me…
It's reckoned that in the Pattaya Go-Go's between 70 – 90% of the girls have Thai BF's. These figure come from owners and mamasans. Just spend time in Royal Garden Plaza or Big C and you'll be amazed to see how many teeruks you see with their Thai BF's. They like to window shop or go to the movies.
Dishonesty, flagrant dishonesty. It is after all, Thailand's biggest scam.
Why is it that so many of your readers and to some extent yourself, are surprised by and even condemn the actions of the bar girls? Going to a Bangkok bar is to enter a fantasy world of actresses and role-playing. It is a fantasy world, it isn't real, you cannot take it home with you any more than you can take home the leading lady from the movies. In cold simple terms you pay money to be the centre of attention, to have beautiful women fight for your favours and to be complimented on your manners, appearance and physique. Does this sound like reality to you? It sure ain't my normal day. Then when the ride is over, the men write how they were "cleaned out by a cold-blooded heartless bitch". Harsh criticism for someone who is merely doing what you paid her (and kept on paying her) to do – maintain YOUR fantasy
Are our days numbered?
My feeling is that with the continued xenophobia of the govt and growing insularity of the general population, Thais' acceptance of farangs could well fall. One problem here as opposed to Indonesia, say, is that expats in Indonesia only do jobs that Indonesians cant (or who head office think they cant) for huge expat salaries etc. We don't actually take jobs from the locals. In Thailand, some foreigners are so keen to live here (good weather, good food, cheap sex, etc etc) that they will work for local money, live in local's accommodation, take local transport etc, in short, taking jobs from the locals.
Waxworks in Thailand.
A couple of months ago, I saw the wax show at Super Girl in Pattaya. Near the end of the show, the girl comes around to the people sitting around the main stage and will drip some of the hot wax on your hand to see what it feels like. The melting temperature must be fairly low, because it doesn't hurt very much. However, the girl drips the wax all over her tongue and body, which probably isn't too pleasant. I barfined this girl the other night. She had faded marks on her belly and upper legs. She said that they were the result of doing the hot wax show at the go-go where she used to work.


Morning Night Bar on Friday night, one day before it
was due to open!

The old Soi 4 landmark Tom's Quik was gutted a while ago and over the past few weeks a new bar has been under construction. According to Hillary of Hillary's Bar who appears to be the new mamasan, Morning Night as the new bar will be called was due to open Saturday night. Whether or night they managed to open or not, I don't know, because it was a real disaster zone walking past it on Friday night, with a team of Thais working through the night, trying to get it ready for the masses who swoop down Soi Nana every Saturday night.

One has to laugh at all of these photo sticker booths around town. Notice how all of the photographs are overexposed. Now, just why would they do that? Well, overexposed photos make skin colour look lighter than it really is, and with white skin prized as a sign of beauty in Thailand, everyone is happy!

Spider's Web in Nana Plaza have a sign outside stating that all beers and spirits have been reduced to 90 baht. You mean that bar actually used to charge more than that?

I note the French sandwich booth at ground level in Nana Plaza which now occupies the spot where the kebab dealer used to be, is offering discounts on sandwiches. Now these sandwiches really are good, and the prices make them a far better deal, in my humble opinion, than the Bangkok's most hygienic beast, the grease king, who can be found selling burgers out the front. Truth be told, his burgers taste good, but they regularly give me a case of the trots.

Carnival Bar in Nana is advertising for new staff, as are most of the bars in Nana. The sign outside Carnival is asking for girls aged from 18 – 25, although most the girls inside seem to be somewhat older than that!

Whoa, Rainbow 1 is back to the glory days. There are plenty of really attractive girls in there at the moment, just like there used to be. This is one bar that is definitely worth a visit if you want to see a lot of really pretty ladies.

A few years back, around 1998 and 1999 to be precise, Rainbow 1 was the place where you would find me most often. It is interesting to note that of the service staff working there now, about 80% of them are the same staff who worked there way back when I used to frequent that bar, 3-4 years ago! But, when one looks at all of the dancing girls, it is probably only about 20% of the girls from the same period.

As always, Bottoms Up in Nana has the girls showing everything, whereas in most other bars in Nana, the girls are no more than topless.

Temples…the number one reason to visit Thailand?

The new Beach Road in Pattaya is nearly finished and they have done a really decent job. The new road is concrete and they have put good quality, or at least good-looking, red tiles along the pavement. I guess the only question is, knowing Thailand, how long will it last.

There is a navy boat in port in Pattaya so its been a little busier than it had been, but still relatively quiet. Tiger A Gogo was packed with American military boys all staring wide eyed at the insertion of the little green bottles. Many gogos were still trying to be topless but several times the warning lights flashed on and they quickly had to cover up.

There is apparently a great sexy show in Happy a gogo, which, being at the end of the soi, has a good lookout system in place. Interesting to note that number 33 has got a great pair of silicone enhanced boobs. Didn't the famous number 33 from Dollhouse in Clinton also have a tit job? Must be a lucky number, I guess.

Closed circuit TV along Walking Street? Have you noticed this before? On top of the sign for the 'City Burger' shop which is just past Living Doll, is a TV camera pointing back down Walking street towards Marine disco. Who controls this and what for? And how many more big brothers are watching?

If you are looking for a GREAT place to get your negatives developed and your photos printed, it is well worth your while to take a trip to Colour Image in Lard Prao. The store is located opposite the big Central Lard Prao Shopping Centre, on the main road. The prices are rock bottom and the quality of their work should be good enough for all but the most fussy amateurs. You can get 4 X 6 digital prints (not sure quite what this means as they come off from negatives) on the highest grade paper for 5 baht a shot. Regular 4 X 6 prints can be had from as little as 3 baht – but the digital prints really are worth paying the extra for. (The same thing in downtown Bangkok can cost up to 10 baht). And what's more, with every roll of film that you get developed, you get a voucher for a free 8 X 12 enlargement. Damned good value and top quality prints. And no, I am not getting anything in return for recommending this store.

Bottoms Up in Nana Plaza which used to be called Pretty Girl Bar and then Pretty lady Bar, is home to a luk kreung (half Thai, half farang) girl. My heart really goes out to this girl, because she has been working there for at least 4.5 years, and she hates it. You'd think that maybe she would get picked up by a customer and married off, but no, she is still there, after all of this time. While there are many, many luk kreungs in the music and television industry, this poor girl lucked out and ended up in a flesh bar. While one does not want to speculate as to why she is there, I just wonder under what circumstances she was conceived. Impossible to say of course, but it really does serve as reminder about condom use, not just for the prevention of STDs, but for the prevention of pregnancy too. Having a daughter who worked in such a place would be fairly hard feeling to stomach, I should think.

It is supposedly the rainy season but we haven't been getting much rain… In fact some days it feels more like the cool season…and there have been more than a few nights recently where not only have I not had the air-con on, I have had the fan turned off too. Very pleasant weather and it is quite possible to walk a few kms during the day without breaking out in a sweat.

Another example of shocking customer service in the kingdom. I found myself in a supermarket recently and went to pay with a 1,000 baht note. The girl took the note away to a superior to check and see if it was genuine. She came back and told me in Thai that it was fake and that she could not accept it. I then said, fine, I'll take my business elsewhere, quietly bemused at all, but a little concerned that maybe I had somehow ended up with a counterfeit banknote. Upon hearing that I am about to go elsewhere, the same checkout girl grabs the 1,000 baht note off me, puts it in the till, and gives me my change. WTF?!

I heard a really funny story recently about how one farang told another farang about a place where nice girls could be found. The very next day, the fellow who mentioned this new place spotted a few farangs there, proving that there are some professional perverts out there…. There really seem to be more than a few farangs resident in the Kingdom who are looking for the next sexual experience in Thailand.

Bar owners have reported that customer numbers are increasing with the arrival of the new English Premiership season. Yep, those Brits just love to go down to their local bar and enjoy the football in the surroundings of a pub.

One has to chuckle at the liberal meaning given to the word limousine in Thailand. Book a limo to the airport, or any other destination, and what usually turns up is either a regular taxi or Toyota Corolla, which is what 90% of all the taxis are, although the limo is invariably white. While you do not get the comfort of a real limo, you do get the price!

The Living Room has been a hot place to visit recently…that is, it has been so hot that one has been sweating uncomfortably into their drink. Problems with the bar being denied access to the first floor of the building to fix the air-con were to blame. At last, permission has been granted and they will soon have the air-con fixed…and it will no longer be a hot spot – but will still be worth a visit.

And in other Clinton Plaza bars, the customers are slowly returning with the heavies that were mentioned in this column a week or two back failing to materialize.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick