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Night entertainment venues in Thailand have remained shut for months after the government ordered such venues to be closed temporarily to control the COVID pandemic. It was her workplace for the past 12 years. It was here, among the rows of nightclubs, bars and massage parlours, that she and other sex workers welcomed tourists from around the world.
Many people have built their lives here and others came to seek a better future.
Today, the Walking Street of Pattaya City in coastal Chonburi is no longer a place of entertainment and opportunities. Night entertainment venues that had provided jobs for many sex workers are shut. There are no bright neon lights at night and no pumping music.
There is hardly any of life on the Walking Street.
This makes me want to cry. This place used to generate income and build the future for so many people. Anna is among the hundreds of thousands of sex workers in Thailand believed to have lost their main source of income to the health crisis.
According to SWING, a local foundation that works closely with people in the industry to promote their rights and well-being, the pandemic has seriously impacted sex workers. Many of them worked at night entertainment venues. However, the government has ordered the venues to close several times since last year, believing that they could potentially spread infections.
Sex work is illegal in Thailand. Yet, the country has long been known for its thriving red-light districts in popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
Prostitution in thailand
According to Surang, there are aboutsex workers in Thailand. Many of them have fought for sex work to be legalised, which would guarantee them basic labour protection and welfare enjoyed by other professions.
Most sex workers are not registered in the social security system because of the criminal nature of their job, Surang noted. Sex workers can also face a jail sentence of up to two years and a fine of 10, baht if they advertise themselves for prostitution to the public by any means. Its daily new cases surged above 20, this month as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across the country. Nightclubs and bars have remained shut for several months due to restrictions to control the pandemic. Many provinces with high infection rates such as Bangkok and Chonburi have been placed under curfew between 9pm and 4am, making it even harder for sex workers to find clients.
A of workers have struggled to survive with no income while still having to pay for food and rent and support their family.
Many have unavoidably used up their savings over the past year and were forced to borrow money from loan sharks to stay afloat. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has offered financial help to low-income families and helpless persons. According to SWING, which has around 8, sex workers in its network in Bangkok and Pattaya, only a few of them have received help from the ministry.
For those who got assistance, they only received between 1, baht and 2, baht. This should be part of their rights and state welfare benefits.
It has also helped sex workers infected with the coronavirus to seek medical treatment. Its headquarters in Phat Phong — one of the most renowned red-light districts in Bangkok — has transformed into an ad-hoc kitchen, where staff members prepare food handouts three times a week.
The area, which used to come alive at night with colourful neon lights, entertainers and tourists, is now dark and empty.
For Surang, the sight is heart-breaking. So many lives went out too.
'we don't know if we'll survive': thailand sex workers left struggling as covid lockdown drags on
These lights brought them income," she said. Some have become shop assistants, waitresses or employees at petrol stations. Others have ed food delivery companies or construction sites. Empower Foundation led a group of workers in the night entertainment industry to the Government House in Bangkok on Jun 29 to voice their frustration.
They demanded monthly compensation worth 5, baht for every worker affected by COVID until the businesses can reopen. We know it's a hassle to switch browsers but we want your experience with CNA to be fast, secure and the best it can possibly be.
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A file photo of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, Thailand. A street in Pattaya at night.
Thailand's COVID national vaccination programme hit by supply shortage, uncertain delivery schedule. Expand to read the full story.
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