Among the biggest reasons for corruption in the police force is surely the massive gap that exists between the laws and the reality in Thailand. On the one hand, prostitution is illegal. But on the other, Bangkok and Pattaya are globally renowned as “flesh markets” whose promise of relatively low-price carnal bliss attracts a constant flow of international visitors.
The sex industry is thus an important part of Thailand’s amazingly successful tourism sector, yet the rivers of money flowing in are being directed away from state coffers (tax) and into the pockets of bar owners, workers and their “protectors” – unscrupulous police, bureaucrats and politicians.
Perhaps it’s time that this cash cow was milked to benefit all the people of Thailand, rather than just the corrupt few, by decriminalising and taxing prostitution. Studies of countries where sex work has already been decriminalised suggest that it also creates safer conditions for sex workers.
The World Health organisation has been joined by the UN and the medical journal the Lancet in calling on states to decriminalise sex work to tackle the HIV/Aids epidemic and ensure sex workers’ access to health services.
Of all the countries and territories that have gone down the route of decriminalisation, the US state of Nevada perhaps offers the best template for Thailand to copy. Nevada regulates the trade with mandatory regular health tests for workers, while banning premises offering sexual services from being located near a school or place of worship. Both the premises and the workers pay tax.