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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Prostitution in Thailand:
A North South dialogue on neocolonialism, militarism, and consumerism

by Sinit Sitthirak


The following article was first published in the Thai Development Our Sponsors , nº 27-28, 1995. Reproduced on Signposts with kind permission of the Thai Development Support Committee (TDSC): 409 3rd Fl., TVS Bldg., Soi Rohitsook, Pracharat-bampen Rd., Bangkok, Thailand. Tel: (662) 691 0408-9 fax: (662) 691 0409.

Excerpts from a discussion with the Sinit Sitthirak and Anja Bonish.

Sinit began by disclosing the staggering numbers of prostitutes in Thailand
and the places where they work. The Vietnam War was mentioned as a contributing factor in the growth of prostitution in Thailand during the 1960s. Instead of being collapsed by the withdrawal of the American forces from Vietnam in mid-1970s as expected, the sex and service industries in Thailand were sustained by tourist 'troops' and local clientele who adopted the Gl pattern of recreations and maintained the Thai permissive code of conduct for males. To justify their business, some sex tour operators regarded their operation as a new kind of development aid to the Third World poor women.

Then followed the mail-order bride business - another form of women trafficking - child prostitution and AIDS. Excerpts of the dialogue are as follows:

Anja: I feel that I am beginning to get an overview of the
prostitution problem in Thailand. But can you provide an in-depth analysis?
Could you tell me why these girls have become prostitutes? What happened? What
is really going in your country?

Sinit: I would like to answer all of your questions by discussing and
reviewing several books and articles. The sources I have selected are: From
Peasant Girls to Bangkok Masseuses
by Pasuk Phongpaichit (1982),
Prostitution in Thailand by Sukanya Hantrakul (1983), Tourism and the
Price Women Pay
by Siriporn Skrobanek (1990), and Behind the Smile:
Voices of Thailand
by Sanitsuda Ekachai (1990). Why did I choose these four publications? First of all, the four of them are all in English, so that you can read them for yourself. Second, they were written by four female Thai writers from different backgrounds and perspectives - a professor, a freelance writer, an activist and a journalist - at different times during the past decade. Their insightful studies will help provide an in-depth understanding of this problem from a Thai perspective.

Why have these girls become prostitutes? What would your choices be if you were
born into a landless peasant family in a remote village in the poorest region
of Thailand? Forests that at one time were your natural supermarket and
pharmacy, have been converted into tourist resorts and eucalyptus plantations.
Even though you may have some land left the remoteness of the village has
placed you "at the end of the chain of rural marketing''. Therefore, not only
do you get poor prices for your products, you also suffer from the frequent
fluctuations in demand. As Pasuk Phongpaichit note/ many of the farmers in the
North have complained they even when they took the risks of investing in new an
commercial crops, they all too often found that the market was unreliable and
the produce was difficult to sell.2

How can you possibly stay in your village where by going to Bangkok, you can work in a factory and earn as much as 25 times more than what you could at home If you go into the sex trade, a couple of years of work would enable you to build a house for your family, of 4 size and quality which very few people in the country side could ever hope to achieve on the earnings of a lifetime.4

At this point, after in-depth interviews with 50 Bangkok masseuses, Pasuk Phongpaichit came to the conclusion that:

the economic incentive is patently clear. Most of the girls came from the two poorest regions of the country (the North and the Northeast), and chiefly from farming families with large numbers of dependents. Most of them had left because of the pressure of poverty.5

Before leaving home, most of the girls were either helping on the family
farm or were housewives. Forty per cent of them had no education at all, while
another 52 per cent had less than four years of elementary schooling.6 In one
study, the author points out one of the most striking changes in the data on
migration between 1960 and 1970: in the movement from the Northeast to Bangkok, a ratio of 5:4. The study also indicates that migrants were mostly concentrated in the 15-to 24-year age group; furthermore, it is with the 10- to 19-year-old group that the number of women migrants exceeded the number of men. In conclusion, the study found that while on average only 44.4 per cent of the
city's women (over the age of 11) participated in the labour force, the rate of participation by migrant women from the North was 54.5 per cent, and among migrant women from the Northeast it had soared up to 80.8 per cent.7

What is remarkable about these women who go to Bangkok, considering Thai
attitudes towards women who allow more than one man access to her body, is that they manage to maintain strong ties with their families. They return home to visit at least once a year, often two or three times. Of 46 girls interviewed, all sent at least 1,000 baht (US$40) a month back home.9 The postmaster in Dok Kham Tai district in the northern province of Phayao observed that the
remittances swell during the months of March to June and November to January. As the author noted:

These are the months of greatest activity in the agricultural calendar, and the girls increase their remittances to cover the costs of the wage labour which must be hired to sustain agricultural operations. Many of the families have had to replace their daughters' labour with hired help, and the daughters are aware of this substitution. If they have not made enough savings to send
home for these seasonal needs, they may well turn up in person to do the necessary tasks. The migration is thus an adjunct to the family's (and thus the village's agrarian economy.9

There are many studies on prostitution; however, it is said that Pasuk's
study is unique as it not only depicts the masseuses' problems at the micro
level but also brings into question the macro level - that is, the government
economic development policies since 1950. Development strategies, which
promoted the accumulation of urban capital on the surpluses of agriculture, has
established Bangkok as a rapidly-growing primary city dominated by an urban
middle class which monopolises wealth and political influence, while
'squeezing' the rest, situated closer to the margin, who do not have their
social and geographic advantages. As the author concluded,

...migration is thus an intrinsic part of Thailand' s economic orientation.
Thailand 's strategy depends externally on accepting a dependent and vulnerable
role in the world economy, and internally on keeping the primary sector in a
dependent and tractable state. A business which takes girls out of the poorer
parts of the countryside and sells their services to he urban earner and to the
foreign visitor is merely the mirror image of this hierarchy of

Anja: I would like to define this kind of economic development in terms
of "the penetration of the global economy."

Sinit: Yes, exactly. The failure to develop national industrialisation and maintain the agricultural-based economy caused Thailand to resort to the last choice - earning foreign currency through the selling of "nature and culture": sun, sand, sea, a sophisticated local way of life and, more importantly, the special service sector that promotes and sells sex to foreign
tourists who normally cannot afford it in their own countries. Images of docility, submissiveness and the 'exotic' also play into the appeal of Thai prostitutes to foreign men.

Encouraged by the World Bank and other international funding agencies, this new policy has been promoted officially since 1980, which was declared the 'Year of Tourism'. Mr. Boonchu Rojanasathien, the deputy prime minister during that time, declared to the national meeting of governors in October 1980 that:

within the next two years, we have a need of money. Therefore l ask of all
governors to consider the natural scenery in your provinces, together with some
forms of entertainment that some of you might consider disgusting and shameful
because they are forms of sexual entertainment that attract tourists. Such
forms of entertainment should not be prohibited if only because you are morally
fastidious. Yet explicit obscenities that may lead to damaging moral
consequences should be avoided, within a reasonable limit. We must do this
because we have to consider the jobs that will be created for the

Anja: Coming back to what you had mentioned earlier, many prostitutes in
the West are runaways who no longer have any contact with their families. I am surprised to learn that prostitutes in Thailand have very close, strong links with their families. Could you comment a bit further on this point?

Sanit: There are many historical and cultural factors that make women
into second-class citizens in Thai society. Sukanya Hantrakul gave a very
critical and concise summary when she stated that:


...traditional Thai culture, partly rooted in the Buddhist concept of the
accumulation of merit and the Law of Karma, encourages Thai women,
particularly those living in rural areas, to view men as their superiors. Women
see themselves as disadvantaged and less worthy. They need money as a means of
showing gratitude to their parents for bearing and raising them, as a way of
taking care of their younger siblings and giving them a wider range of
opportunities, including education.l2

Her comment reinforces an earlier study by Pasuk which showed that the
most remarkable thing about the girls she interviewed was "their conception of
themselves as family breadwinners.''13 All but four retained strong links with
their families, supplying remittances which contributed substantially to
meeting the basic needs of their families for housing, water and education, but
little to productive investment in rural areas.14 For example, there is the
story of Taew, a girl from the village of Don Barg in the Northeast, who was
persuaded to sell her virginity at one of the massage parlours. The client paid
8,000 baht (US$320), of which she got only 2,000 baht (US$80). She sent the money home right away to build a well for drinking water.15

In conclusion, I feel that even though both authors explored different aspects
of prostitution, Pasuk focusing on the economic aspect while Sukanya explored the cultural background and viewpoints traditionally rooted in the doctrines and practices of Buddhism, they reinforced and enriched each other. But their local and national accounts of the phenomenon of Thai prostitution would remain wholly incomplete without considering the international dimension. In this
respect, Siriporn Skrobanek's article "Tourism and the Price Women Pay" remains invaluable. In this article, Siriporn, who is the founder of the Foundation for Women, clearly addresses and analyses the international phenomena of packaged sex tours, mail-order brides and the overall global traffic in women. From all three perspectives, one can easily develop the broader context in which to better understand how someone like Taew, a virgin peasant girl from the remote village of Don Barg in the Northeast, would migrate to Bangkok to become a masseuse and later end up in the Hamburg, Frankfurt or Amsterdam red light district through the mail-order bride business or other channels. Pasuk describes this phenomenon at the local and national levels when she says that these peasant girls

..were not fleeing from a family background or rural society which oppressed
women in conventional ways. Rather, they were engaging in an entrepreneurial
move designed to sustain the family units of a rural economy which was
coming under increasing pressure. They did so because their accustomed position in
that rural society allocated to them a considerable responsibility for earning
income to sustain the family.l6

From the rural countryside to urban Bangkok, these girls were later attracted
to newspaper ads and agents promising high-paying jobs in the major urban
centres of the world, such as in Europe and North America; in this way, they
made a second periphery-to-centre migration.

This phenomenon is also supported and further elaborated upon by Enloe (1989),
who claims that:

[t]he International Monetary Fund (IMF), which serves as a vanguard for the
commercial banking community by pressuring indebted governments to adopt
policies which will maximise a country's ability to repay its outstanding loans
with interest, has insisted that governments cut their social service budgets.
Reductions in food-price subsidies are high on the IMF's list of demands for
any government that wants its financial assistance. Keeping wages down, cutting
back public works, reducing the number of government employees, rolling back
health and education budgets - these are standard IMF prescriptions for
indebted governments. They usually attract support from at least some members
of the government itself, especially in the financial ministry.l7

Therefore, when a woman from Mexico, Jamaica or the Philippines decides
to emigrate in order to make money as a domestic servant "she is designing her
own international debt policy. She is trying to cope with the loss of earning
power and the rise in the cost of living at home by cleaning bathrooms in the
country of the bankers."l8

This analysis can be applied to the case of Thai prostitution at the
international level as well. When Ning, a nightclub bar girl in Bangkok,
decided to follow Robert Meier, a Swiss tourist, to Zurich, she had also
designed her own international economic policy to support her family and
country without knowing that she would be forced to work as a prostitute there,
as well as in Paris where her husband would sometimes take her to work.l9

This also reinforces what Pasuk analysed earlier:

The trade has been successfully oriented to an urban international market
and embedded deeply into the structure of Thai economy. It provides a means of
survival for poor and rural families, and it helps earn the foreign exchange to
cover import costs.20

Anja: Your response gave me a clearer understanding of the big picture.
I can answer myself step-by-step now. Why prostitution? Because of global
militarism and economics. Why global militarism and economics? Because global
consumerism and tourism play a big role in that process. As Maria Mies said in
her latest article presented at the "Women and Children First" Symposium in
Geneva last spring "the prevailing world market system, oriented towards
unending growth and profit, cannot be maintained unless it can exploit external
and internal colonies, nature, women and other people.''21. I do agree with
both her content and title "Consumption Patterns of the North - the Cause of
Environmental Destruction and Poverty in the South." Private consumption in the
North has not only increased dramatically during these past few decades, but
has also changed its pattern. For instance,

"Whereas around 1950 almost half of household expenses were spent on food,
this proportion was only 23% in 1987. A much greater part of the income of
private households could be now spent on leisure time activities and luxury

Because of the surplus from the South, people in the North now have more
time and more money to travel around, as consumption patterns become more and
more complicated. Leisure time activity no longer only means sports or
travelling; it also includes exotic sexual consumption as well.

Sinit: Yes! That is what Sukanya concluded when she said that "the
foreigner is now not only seeking sex in an exotic land but is also hunting in
his own territory."23

Anja: By the way, you mentioned before that Thai men are the major
clients of the prostitutes. Why? Here only men considered to be 'losers' go to

Sinit: Sukanya did a very interesting cultural analysis of this point.
She said that

[culturally Thai society still very much flatters men for
their promiscuity and polygamy.... While a woman is seriously condemned for
allowing more than one man to gain access to her body, a man is, ironically,
praised for being able to, on whatever basis - love, money or even force - have
sexual relations with as many women as he wishes.24

Therefore, even if there were no longer foreign customers, there would
be more than enough reason for the existence of prostitution in Thai society,
as it is a part of our culture. As Sukanya further explains,

In Thai family life the major point of conflict in marriage stems from the
fear of minor wives. This fear and subsequent marital conflict, together with
financial predicaments, has led to many women preferring their husbands to
visit prostitutes rather than to take a second or minor wife...For virtuous
young Thai virgins, the prostitute is a necessity, providing an opportunity for
their male lovers to gain experience before they marry. For loving mothers, the
prostitute is an adventure, a social service, a cultural universal for males
... Outside the family there are several social workers who, whenever there is
an increase in the incidence of rape, stress the necessity of promoting
prostitution - as if that were the answer in a society where there is already
easy access to prostitutes..25


Above all, I do agree with her insightful comment that the Thai prostitutes
have been in greater demand than her sisters of other countries because of "her
fatalistic acceptance of her profession combined with her feudalistic sense of
rendering service to her superiors and her self-taught art of

Anja: Are there any attempts to change this situation?

Sinit: There are some NGO groups such as the Foundation for Women
or Friends of Women Foundation who have attempted to address this problem through many different activities and campaigns, at the local, national and international levels, over the past ten years. EMPOWER works directly at the local level with bar girls from the Patpong area.27 The government has three reform houses operating under the responsibility of the Department of Public Welfare. Sukanya
has suggested that what vocational training at the reform houses gives to the prostitute who is charged and sent there "seems to bear no relationship to the production value."28 She strongly asserts that the ultimate goal of the reform process seems to be rather, "to make the prostitutes recognise her crime of being promiscuous and repent."29

Pasuk also criticises such vocational training for its inability to confer production value on the skills taught. She cites the example of the vocational training centre in Dok Kham Tai (a district in the North well known for the girls who have migrated and now work in the South as prostitutes) which provides girls with the opportunity to train in commercial cooking and dressmaking.30 But the failure of this program is that it does not provide for immediate basic needs, nor is there any real demand for these skills in the job market.

Anja: As people in the North are at the centre of the global consumption problem, what are some of the things that can be done in order to address it?

SinitI cannot instantly give you a concrete answer or a hands-on checklist. What I can suggest is that the North should re-examine and re-evaluate the basis of Western culture, philosophy and society. What are the roots of consumerism? What are the roots of industrialisation? Let's go back to where Mies stated in her article that "a quarter of the world's population not only consumes 75 per cent of the world's energy, but also produces 80 per cent
of the carbon dioxide emissions."31 These statistics are clearly unsettling, as they tend to beg the questions: Why does the North continue to get richer? Why does the North think that they can consume whatever they want, when by doing so, they make others increasingly poorer? As Maria Mies noted:

Two hundred years ago the Western world was only five times as rich as the
poor countries of today. In 1960 this relationship was already 20:1, and in 1983 it was 46:1, the rich countries being 46 times richer than the poor countries. The wealth in the rich countries grows ever faster and within a limited world this means it grows at the expense of others, of what I continue to call colonies: nature, women, the so-called Third World.32

How are the rich countries able to grow wealthier at the expense of others? Why has the world been divided into the developed and developing countries? Surprisingly, I began exploring these questions only recently. As the only Third World student in my Women and Development class, many burning questions about development were directed towards me. The most common one was
"What does development mean to you?"

Can I share my personal insights with you? I think that my experience in
learning the meaning of the term "development" will answer your question about
global consumerism at some level.

The term "development" is very new in the Thai context. It seems to have been
only recently introduced to Thailand during the late fifties and early sixties.
It arrived there with the huge construction projects, such as hydro electric
dams and major highway routes, and the promotion of agri-business geared
towards export. Thirty years later, what Thailand has got from development is
deforestation, polluted rivers and large numbers of poor people and
prostitutes. In looking back along the 'trail' of development in Thailand, the
significance of the term "neo colonialism" has become much clearer.

Living in Canada has given me the opportunity to experience another way of
life. Almost every day I receive flyers from Byways, Zellers, Simpsons, Eaton's
and 'No Frills' . There are 'sales' seven days a week, every week of the month.
Why is there too much in one place and too little in other parts of the world?
Are some countries 'underdeveloped' because others are 'overdeveloped'? These
questions persuaded me to consider the other side of the coin: that development
has to be encouraged and maintained for the sake of the existence of
consumerism. This conclusion is reinforced by Vandana Shiva, an Indian
physicist and ecologist, who also argues that development itself is the problem
as it drains resources away from those who need them the most. Therefore:

what is currently called development is essentially maldevelopment,
based on the introduction or accentuation of the domination of man over nature
and women... Nature and women are turned into passive objects, to be used and
exploited for the uncontrolled and uncontrollable desires of alienated man.
From being the creators and sustainers of life, nature and women are reduced to
being 'resources' in the fragmented, anti- life model of maldevelopment.33

In the case of Thailand, it cannot be denied that development, under the many
different labels of industrialisation, modernisation, exportation, etc., has
been the main cause of ecological dysfunction and environmental degradation.
For example, in the northeastern region, it has been found that:

[a] contributing factor to erratic and fewer rainfalls has been the clearing
of the tropical forest over the past two to three decades to grow cash crops
such as maize, tobacco and tapioca which is mainly sold to the animal feed
markets of the European Economic Community. The loss of the forest has also
caused soil erosion, lowering the quality and fertility of the land still

In the overall region, the statistics show that the percentage of forest
to total land area has dropped sharply from 53.1% in 1967 to 29.1%
in 1985. What's more, it has been estimated that "most if not all of
the forests of Thailand will disappear permanently in the next three decades,
unless very drastic measures are taken to stop the current trend."35

This critical situation has affected and marginalised women and has placed them
in a very desperate position. As Shiva explains:

when commodity production as the prime economic activity is introduced as
development, it destroys the potential of nature and women to produce life and
goods and services for basic needs. More commodities and more cash means less
life in nature (through ecological destruction) and in society (through of
basic needs). Women are devalued first because their work cooperated with
nature's processes, and second, because work which satisfies needs and ensures
resistance is devalued in general. It is no accident that the modern, efficient
and productive technologies created within the context of growth in market
economic terms are associated with heavy costs, borne largely by women.36

Shiva's observations are very pertinent to the Thai situation, for it appears that Thai women have been affected the most by development. A recent study by the Gender and Development Research Institute shows that the Thai female labour force in the agricultural sector has decreased from 87.6 per cent to 57.5 per cent over the last two decades (1970-88). In addition, from 1985-88, female
labourers migrating to the urban areas outnumbered migrating male labourers by a total of two million. Most of them were among the 15-24 age group and were serving as the primary labour force in the textile, garment, shoes, food processing, electronic equipment and tourism industries.37 The rest earn very low wages in the informal sector, in domestic work, street vending and, in particular, prostitution.

Through the critique of development, the flip side being consumerism, we can gain a clearer understanding of the roots of poverty and prostitution in Thailand. This is reinforced by Sanitsuda's recent work, Behind the Smile, which sharply reflects this phenomenon. The writer travelled from village to village in the three major regions of Thailand and heard first-hand what
rural people had to say. She recorded the changing face of Thailand from the perspective of the rural Thai villagers. Certainly these stories are insightful in their depiction of the radical changes occurring in Thailand over these past three decades: from an agricultural society to an industrialised and modernised one. For example, Wan Tankhiaw, a woman from the Lua tribe in the North of Thailand recalled that:

since the school was set up, we have no longer worn our traditional clothes.
. . Other people used to look at us as if we were freaks. We want to dress like them.38

The author tells us further that there are now only two pieces of traditional, hand-woven Lua cloth, dating back over three generations, left in the village. None of the young girls today know how to weave.39

This is what has been occurring as a result of the government establishing an agricultural centre, which later became a school and Buddhist temple, with the goal to 'assimilate' hill tribe people into the modern age and to make them give up their old so-called 'uncivilised' ways.

The changes that have swept through the hill tribes have been predominantly for the worst. Sanitsuda reiterates the experience of Wan's brother's family. After getting caught illegally cutting down trees in the forest, and receiving seven years of imprisonment, Wan's brother left behind his wife Moon and four children. Soon after, in order to support the family, Moon's eldest daughter
was 'sold' to a brothel . As much as we may feel inclined to judge Moon, we need first to understand the economic desperation that this family is experiencing. Moon is distraught over the loss of her husband and daughter that destitution has thrown her into. She tells us that:

I miss my child. I miss my husband. You don't know how I suffer. I feel helpless trying to make ends meet struggling on my own. You don't know what it's like.... I didn't sell my daughter. I just borrowed money. That's why I only asked her boss for 2,000 baht (US$80). That's all I needed to buy rice and food . They offered 10,000 baht (US$400) for her. But I didn't want her to have to work too long to pay off the debt. I wanted her to come back home.40

Sanitsuda's work is not only creative but also critical, as she has not only brought the unheard voices of marginalised people to the centre but has also challenged the centre through the 'real-life story' of the unheard voices. For example, in her chapter "Invasion of the North"", she critically addresses development policies:

[g]overnment and private-sector promotion of cash crops, which requires a high investment, is decreasing the capabilities of small farmers for self reliance and self-sufficiency in food. The increasing use of chemical pesticides is affecting the environment's soil and health of the farmers.4l


Moreover, what makes her work unique is her ability to take several perspectives into account. The stories that she presents reflect her "excellent understanding of the complex and interwoven human, social and ecological issues involved, and her ability to communicate this."42 I do agree with her observation that the traditional way of life has become somewhat "diluted as
the villagers are engulfed by the market economy, land speculation and tourism. Rural communities are gradually losing their unique cultural heritages and their sense of identity."43 Moreover, the recent phenomenon of the increasing need for money for material consumption has deeply shaped the faces of the villages:

Rural people have developed a high demand for motorcycles, consumer appliances such as televisions and refrigerators, and other consumer goods. The rapid spread of good roads and electricity throughoub the regions has brought city life and consumer culture, continuously promoted through the mass media, into their homes. As agricultural income alone is not sufficient to buy these goods, the village youth leave for the cities to look for extra earnings.44

The accumulating debt crisis has a double-bind relation with modern technology and its derivative, agribusiness. In the wake of decreasing self-sufficiency, youth are pushed to go to Bangkok in an effort to find scarce employment. As a result, prostitution becomes one of the more popular
alternatives for many women in certain areas of this region. "It has become a major source of income and the 'key to survival' in the modern era."45

Even though her report depicts the hardships of struggling people, who are barely able to survive and make ends meet day by day, it is still full of hope and liveliness. As she points out, "some farmers are turning to integrated farming, which is based on principles of ecological balance and self-reliance, producing food for their own consumption before food fore sale."46 This is
perhaps what is most charming about this book: it not only confronts bitter problems but also provides a glimmer of hope for a possible way out. There is an expectation of changes for the better, as experienced by the author herself:

as a result of her visits and conversations with so many villagers, she has come to respect their sound wisdom, wisdom which may itself provide answers to the many problems Thailand faces, if we only listen to it.47

In conclusion, I'd like to say that these four books and articles offer a tremendous contribution to an understanding of the problems of prostitution in Thailand. In working from differing perspectives, they help enrich and reflect each other. Pasuk Phongpaichit (1982) began by exploring the economic aspect under the theme of centre-periphery migration. What she found was that "the girls did not make the economic structure, and they could not escape from it."48 Therefore, if there is to be a realistic solution to this crisis, it must be long-term, that is, "a massive change in the distribution of income between city and country and a fundamental shift in Thailand's orientation to the international economy."49 Sukanya Hantrakul's (1988) questioning of Thai patriarchal values was extremely provocative and challenging. She also outlined a clearly stated proposal for "radical examination and change in the sexual relations between women and men both within and outside the institution of prostitution itself."50 Siriporn Skrobanek (1990) has brought her research on
the transnational sexual exploitation of Thai women into the community, and brought the community back into the international forum, through her newly established NGO which aims at helping women in distress.5l Sanitsuda's two articles, "Go South, Young Girl" and "I Didn't Sell My Daughter" reflected her environmentalist and holistic approach in the critique of industrialisation and
modernisation. She brings all elements of the socio-economic, political and ecological background into synthesis, which helps bring to completion the work of all four authors.


* Sinit Sitthirak recently got her Masters degree in Environmental Studies from York University, Toronto, Canada. She has authored "Prostitution and Development in Thailand" in Gender and Development in Southeast Asia and the Rise of Thai Television (1950-1957) : Its Socio-political and Economic Impacts on Thai Society. Her area of concentration is women, environment and media in development. Her next publication to come out in
mid-1995 is Daughters of Development: The Stories of Women and the ChangingEnvironment in Thailand.


1. Pasuk Phongpaichit, 1982. From Peasant Girls to Bangkok Masseuses,
Geneva International Labour Office, p42.

2. Ibid

3. Ibid, pV

4. Ibid, p.74

5. Ibid., p.l4.

6. Ibid.,pp. 12-14.

7. Ibid., pp. 32-35.

8. Ibid., p.23.

9. Ibid., p.69

l0. Ibid.,p 75.

11 .Sukanya Hantrakul,19B8."Prostitution in Thailand"in Development and Displacement: Women in Southeast Asia, Clayton, Vic: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University pp.130-131

12. Ibid, cited in Tantiwiramanond, Darunee, and Shashi Ranjan Pandey, 1991. By
Women, Women: a Study of Women's Organisations in Thailand. Pasir
Panjang, Singapore: Institute of Asian Studies., p.21.

13. Pasuk, op. cit. p.24.

14. Ibid, p.23 and V

15. Ibid, p 52.

16, Ibid, p. vi.

17. Enloe, Cynthia, 1989. Bananas, Beaches & Bases London: Pandora press, 1984.

18. Ibid, p. 185.

19. Gabriel-Luzon, Jo, l984. "Paradise and Prostitution" in Women's World

20. Pasuk, op, cit., p. 75.

21. Mies, Maria, 1991, "Consumption Patterns of the North-The Cause of Environmental Destruction and Poverty in the South". Paper presented at the symposium" Women and Children First"", UNCED-Geneva, Switzerland, 27-30 May

22. Ibid.

23. Sukanya, op. cit., p. 131.

24. Ibid. pp. 117 and 132.

25. Ibid., p 133

26. Ibid, p 134.

27. For more details of these three organisations, look in Tantiwiramanond, op.

28. Sukanya, op cit., p.l27.

29. Ibid

30. Pasuk, op. cit., p. 43.

31. Mies, op. cit.

32. Ibid.

33. Shiva, Vandana, 1988. Staying Alive. London: Zed Book Ltd., p.6.

34. Sanitsuda Ekachai, 1990. Behold the Smile: Voices of Thailand
Bangkok: Thai Development Support Committee

35. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), 1984. Environment, Development and Natural
Resource Crisis of Asia
&the Pacific. Penang: SAM,

36. Shiva, op. cit. p.7.

37. Gender and Development Research Institute (GDRI). Information on Status and
Role of Thai Women and Men. June 1991 (a pamphlet in Thai).

38. Sanitsuda, op cit ,p 177.

39, Ibid., pp.83-84

40. Ibid, pp. 179 and 175.

41. Ibid, pp. 126-127.

42. Ibid, p 13.

43. Ibid, p. 127.

44. Ibid., p. 128

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid,. p 127.

47. Ibid., p. 13.

48. Pasuk, op cit, p vi

49. Ibid., p.76

50. Sukanya, op. cit.,p 135.

51. For further details, see her thesis "The Transnational Sexploitation of
Thai Women" The Hague: International Institute of social Studies, 1993, and her
articles published in Foundation for Women's newsletter, Voices of Thai



* Number of prostitutes:

        - NGO's (Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights):

2.8 million, of which 800,000 were child prostitutes (1990)

        - Official: 86,494 (1990)

* Income:

        - 700,000 prostitutes would make 14 billion baht (US$

700 m) a month

* Numbers of sex service operators:

        - Official: For female prostitutes: 6,160; for male prostitutes :58

        - NGO's: 60,000

* Gl's visiting Thailand:

        - 1966: 33,000

        - 1968-69: 70,000

* Tourists visiting Thailand:

        - 1964: 212,000

        - 1986: 2,800,000

        - 1990: 6,000,000

* Number of mail-order brides:

* 1980: 2,258

        - 1985: 4,371

        - 1986: 4,907

* Number of people with Aids:

        - World Health Organisation (WHO): 125,000- 150,000 Thais will die from Aids in 1997

        - Independent researcher: 5.3 million people could be infected by Aids in
2,000, with over one million dead by then.

* * *

Initially presented in the form of a slide presentation on October 1991 at the Women's Bodies, Women's Freedom conference and at the Twentieth Conference of the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies, held at the State University of New York and York University in Toronto, Canada, respectively. Anja Bonish, a graduate student in Environmental Studies gave a great deal of help and support to Sinit's paper but never attended her presentation.