The Problem of Prostitution in Thailand

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 8
Words: 2252
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: Undergraduate


Prostitution is regarded as the world oldest profession. Since time immemorial people have practiced prostitution on different levels; prostitution can be defined as a man or woman using his body to get favors from another man or woman. The use of body in this case mostly refers to sex whether by straight or homosexuals men/women. According to The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, B.E. 2539 (1996), prostitution is defined as any act done to satisfy sexual desires in exchange for a certain favor. Favors include monetary gain and any other benefit that accrues to the prostitute after the service has been done. The trade has come in the name of commercial sex workers, massage parlors, and street prostitution. Some countries have regulated the trade through legalizing it and confiding it to streets called red light streets. In these countries they are also expected to conduct their businesses at a certain time of the day. Such countries include Germany and some parts of India.

Thailand is a Southeast Asian country; it was formally referred to as Siam. Constitutionary, the nation is a monarch headed by (King) Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bangkok is her capital. Area covered by the country is estimated at 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi). According to population survey conducted in 2008, the country population stands approximately at 66million people. It is a third world country. Thailand like many of the world countries has a long history for prostitution (Monk-Turner and Turner 19).

Thesis Statement

The problem of prostitution has been dominant for along period of time. In Thailand the problem has been in existence for a long time and it is not seen to be ending soon. This paper takes a look at Thailand’s prostitution parameters. It will trace early day’s prostitution, look into factors which results in prostitution and give recommendations on the way forward in stopping the trade.

Thailand Population

Thailand constitution recognizes prostitution as an illegal act, punishable by law. This has been placed through various clauses in the constitution. Prostitution in Thailand can be traced in early days before the First World War. It was in the era that there was an increase in slaves who were traded for sex. Today, prostitution can be traced all over the country with the highest preference in the urban areas. It is not easy to estimate the number of commercial sex workers in the country however there are some guiding statistics though they vary greatly. A study conducted by Chulalongkorn University scholar, Dr. Nitet Tinnakul estimated the total number of prostitutes in the country as 2.8 million sex workers. It went further to state that of this number, over 2 million were adult women, 0.02milliom were males and minors under the age of 18years were estimated to be 800,000. The study was conducted in 2004. In 2001, world health organization also had made an estimate which categorized prostitutes; registered and non registered prostitutes. Registered prostitutes were joined to a certain night club or a massage parlor and conducted the business under the cover of wealth business men, including some politicians who have a stake in the trade. The number was estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000 adults; 76,000 to 77,000 minors (Levy 200). There was another class of those who conduct the business individually either along the street, in the houses, and independent call boys and call girls. The report however did not give this group a figure since it is difficult to estimate the number. There are chances of organized crimes which take the form of prostitution where some rich people have brothels under the cover of a certain name which seems okay with the general public like hotel, massage, escort, and salons. They have a way of communicating to their clients which include the use of internet and terms which an ordinary person cannot understand. It is also notable that there are certain signs that are placed on brothel houses to make them recognized by potential customers (Batsyukova 46).

Although prostitution in the country is found in every city, its preference is more in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Koh Samui. These are area where there is an increase in sex tourism; where tourists come all the way to sample these services. In the capital city, there is a known street along Ratchadaphisek Road which is few metres from Huai Khwang intersection, the street is known with a high number of prostitutes with clubs like Ratchadaphisek entertainment district offering sexual massage, karaoke style bars among other which hind under the name bar or massage but practice prostitution. To venture in the trade, age is not of importance and that’s the reason why even underage male and female are in the trade. The trade is estimated to be worth US$ 4.3 billion per year. This is approximately three percent of the national gross domestic product (Boonchalaksi 45).

Legal Situation

Prostitution in Thailand is prohibited and is a crime punishable by law. In 1960, the rate of prostitution in the country was at its peaks with sex tourism being on the rise; this was at a time where the authorities of the country had no much interest to controlling it. The problem that was there was a lacked an injured party since it was on mutual agreement between two consenting people. This led to intervention of United States in the situation and forced the country to adopt a law that prohibits prostitution since it is a social evil. This was respected and the first law against prostitution was enacted. The enactment was later changed in 1996 by the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, B.E. 2539 (1996) which enforced the earlier decision but made a more precise description of what prostitution meant in the eyes of the law. Pertaining service providers, the constitution demands certain standards to be maintained in this business which include massage, go-go bars, karaoke bars, and bathhouses. This is under the entertainment Places Act of 1966. The law allows what can be seen as partial prostitution where in these places a customer is allowed to watch a lady/ man over a glass mirror called fishbowl where they then select the person whom they want massaged by. After the selection, the person mostly ladies get a private room for the service however it is highly doubtful if the service ends at massaging only.

Prostitution law (1996) recognizes a person who is seeking for sexual gratification in a way that destructs public peace as liable to a prostitution offence. The charges to such are up to 1,000 baht. Ministry of Justice in 2003 had put a strong motion bringing forth the benefits which can be taped from prostitution. They were of the opinion that if the trade has been legalized, then the country would earn extra revenue from taxes in this trade and it will be easy to control and make it safer to those people engaged in the trade.

Factors That Has Led To the Increased Prostitution

Social Factors

Thai residents are not seen to be fully against the trade, where men will be seen as common when they pay for the service women on the other hand are of the opinion that the existence of the trade reduces incidence of rape. They are thus of the opinion that though it is not good, at least it exist in the society since it is required. They are seen to suggest that if the trade can be regulated in a way that it does not violate the peace of the society then it can exist in the society harmoniously.

Men sexual urge is seen to be higher than that of women and thus there is need for an extra service if these men have to be satisfied. On the other hand, there is an increasing number of women who are not committing their lives to traditional marriage set-up but want their freedom, they thus engage in sex with different men. The greatest numbers of these women are single career women or divorcees (Blume & Marian 108).

Population Increase, Poverty and Technology Development

The country population has increased, of rate, to levels that the economy cannot afford to offer decent careers. Young people have resulted in sex trade to earn a living and support their parents, the influx of pornographic materials and the demand that they have also attracted some young people to the trade as they seek for income. This is the main reason that have been cited by many commercial sex workers although the truthfulness of the case has been doubted since there are other people who earn a decent life without engaging in prostitution.

Hidden Support

The fight against the trade has been hampered with by the hidden support that it gets from some prominent people in the society. They are people who own bars, massage parlors, and brothels secretly. One of such people is Chuwit Kamolvisit who owns a number of massage parlors and bars in Bangkok. These massages give money to these people and thus they are against the move to track down the offence. There is also police collaboration with the prostitutes and the owners of sex joints. They are the ones who alert these people in case they are planning a patrol (Jon 12).

Forms of Prostitution

Body Massage

These are places that pose as massage parlors’ but offer an extra service to the customer. They are all over the street and advertised in daily papers and electronic media. When the customer goes to these places, they are given the option of having extra services, which is sex or given a simple massage. When they accept extra service, a private room is sought where they have sex.

Bars Catering to Foreigners

These are strip dancing clubs where they pose as ordinary bars and clubs. Over the normal bar service, there are other forms of entertainments which ladies (or men in the case of gay clubs) offer dances which eventually lead to sex. In some clubs the guest is at free will to take a dancer or any other party and have sex in private or there will be what is referred to as sex party; here all the people in the club have sex among themselves. The fee for this is included in entrance charges.

Online Pornography

Online pornography has been quoted as the modern way that the trade has taken place. One of the elements of online pornography is that it is very addictive and it is hard to escape from. Most the sites are accessed free of charge and in some cases appear as pop ups when one is surfing the internet. It is said that pornography lets women to be seen as simple physical entities and mainly place more focus on their breasts and sex organs than the rest of the body. Pornography does not portray women’s attractiveness in terms of character, intelligence and even humor; it shows that the relationship between a man and a woman is only pegged on sex. Most importantly, it does not support long term commitment in love and does not produce a long term love and sexual relationships (Murcott 16).


Stopping prostitution is a hard task since it takes many forms. Some of the forms cannot be traced and it keeps changing form. There is also the question of since the two people doing it are willing, and in most cases are all of the age of majority, where is the crime? However, it is appreciated that the practice is a social evil which should be fought from all angles. Some of the ways that the trade can be controlled is by legalizing the trade and regulate the places which have been licensed to do it. This will make the government have a close eye to the trade and prevent minor involvement. On the other hand, the trade will offer some revenue to the government through regulated taxes.

Secondly, to address moral decay in the society this will be the task of a combined efforts of the people and the government where they jointly aim at improving the living conditions and ethical issues in the society. Poverty should also be addressed to ensure that nobody quotes poverty as the cause as to why they are in the streets.

The “big fish” in the society who support the trade should be looked into and their business stopped. This will assist clear the immune that some places have gotten. The police force should also be checked and those benefiting from the trade punished and their perception changed (McCamish 297-300).


In Thailand, prostitution is as old as humanity. Prostitution is regarded as the world oldest profession. Since the time immemorial people have practiced prostitution on different levels. Prostitution can be defined as a man or woman using his body to get favors from another party. The use of body in this case mostly refers to sex whether for straight or for homosexuals. According to The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, B.E. 2539 (1996), prostitution is defined as any act done to satisfy sexual desires in exchange for a certain favor. There are different forms of prostitution in Thailand which includes online pornography, Body massage, and Bars catering to foreigners. The preference is high in urban areas; it is supported by hidden support from rich people who have an interest in the trade, population increase, poverty and technology development, and social factors. To prevent the trade the government should legalize and control the trade.


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Blume, Jillian, and Marian Van De Veen Van Rijk. “Prostitution Gives Me Power.” Marie Claire (US) 12.7 (2005): 108. Master FILE Premier. EBSCO. Web.

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