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The lively streets of the capital conceal a sordid reality. In this meat market, they do their best to survive and dream of Europe. Not for the faint-hearted. In the red light district or the Soi Cowboy , a true spectacle unfolds behind the tinted windows.
A German tourist has just selected his prey and invites her for a drink, under the watchful eye of a madam. His advances will lead to the bedroom if the European, or farang as the locals call him, is willing to relieve the young girl of her waitress duties in exchange for a few bank notes. Not enough to live on in Bangkok. Meagre salary, but better than nothing: other establishments only employ women on a freelance basis.
For most of the new arrivals from the northern Thai provinces, their payment varies according to how much alcohol they manage to get down the necks of these gentlemen. Further down the street, the prostitutes, sometimes transsexuals, are called over by forty-year-olds with their outrageous appearance: grey hair, tight vests stretching over a pot belly, and flip flops. Nana Plaza, Patpong, Pattaya, Phuket So many names evoke the sex tourism paradise that Thailand has become in recent years.
Today, there are believed to be over , sex workers in the country. Some even suppose the figure to be one million. Koy is in her thirties and comes from a rural region in the north east of the country. There she met a client with whom she exchanged letters for more than ten years. Then they split up. She went back to her province, married a Thai, and then headed back to the south to work in the parlour that had previously employed her. They have been back together ever since. A dream often accompanied by multiple experiences of disenchantment and separation.
Since then, tourists have taken over from the soldiers. The battle of the sex workers for recognition of their status and for better working conditions is a long way from being won. But in this environment, hidden and yet so lucrative, where numerous westerners play the role of boss as well as client, it is an uphill struggle. Loved this story? Then tell your friends: Twitter Facebook.