The latest uproar in Thailand (doesn’t there seem to be one every day lately?) is the comment “Thailand is the world’s brothel” made by Thai TV host, Lakkhana “Kham Phaka” Panwichai,on his TV show recently. As a result, Thai gay rights defender Nathee Theerarojanapong has already submitted a letter to the Chiang Mai Cultural Office asking the Cultural Minister to take action against Kham Phaka, and others are up in arms about it too.
As anyone who lives in Thailand knows, this can be serious as, if found guilty of libel or slander, it can mean a prison sentence.
But is Kham Phaka correct? Is Thailand the world’s brothel? Of course he isn’t and of course it’s not.
Having lived in Thailand for a decade, it has always made me angry when I hear people talking about Thailand being the world’s brothel or Thai girls as prostitutes. In reality, less than one percent of Thai women have ever been involved in prostitution, about the same rate as women in the United States or Europe. Yet that idiot foreigners (and now an idiot Thai) talk about Thailand in this way and, by connection, Thai women (and some Thai men) is pretty appalling.
Is prostitution easy to find in Thailand? Of course it is, as it’s right out in the open in places like Patpong and Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, and cities like Pattaya and Patong. We’ve all seen it. Many times. Is it worse than in Europe, the United States or Japan? No, in absolute numbers most studies say it’s exactly the same, it’s just that in Thailand it’s more in the open. Nothing more.
The whole idea of Thailand being the world’s prostitution center though really is ridiculous, and an image that should have disappeared along with the culturally-offensive idea of Thais as subservient natives there to do the white man’s bidding. It’s also annoying and hurtful to Thai women who, because of it, are often treated by foreign men as readily available for the right price.
That the majority of Thai women are still virgins when they get married is probably quite a shock to some of these men, when they are told in no uncertain terms the woman they think they can buy wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole. For all the tea in, well…….Thailand.
As for Thailand’s image overseas, yes, people think of prostitution when they think of Thailand, but really they shouldn’t. If they’d actually been here and met the friendly people, eaten the world’s most famous food at dirt cheap prices, visited incredibly beautiful temples, been on elephant rides in the jungle, gone diving in Thailand’s stunning dive spots, been to a Muay Thai kickboxing match, or shopped at the world’s biggest open-air market or at one of Bangkok’s more than 100 world-class shopping malls, prostitution would be the last thing they’d think of when thinking about Thailand.
To me it seems like TV host Lakkhana “Kham Phaka” Panwichai is nothing more than a throwback to old Thailand. A place where Thais were made to feel inferior to other countries because their culture was different and they supposedly weren’t as ‘developed’.
But why on earth he would be promoting that offensive image in the 21st century for the rest of the world to read about is really quite surprising.
Is Thailand the world’s brothel? Well if you’re the type of sleazy guy who comes to Thailand to have sex with Thai women as he can’t get it back at home at any price, sure, for you it might be. But for the other 95 percent of us? Nope. Not remotely.
In fact this is the real Thailand: