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The future of Walking Street

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  • The future of Walking Street

    Pattaya’s Walking Street Update

    Club hostesses, technically waitresses, look out for “handsome man”.Waitresses with frilly skirts and white socks are back on Pattaya’s most famous strip. Several nightclubs, formerly go go bars but recently transformed into eateries with a special certificate from the health and safety executive, are now recruiting street customers more or less like they always did. The sole difference in March 2022 is that the chrome pole dancers, wearing a hairnet and not much else, are absent from darkened stages. That’s the idea anyway.

    There are no longer crowds thronging the Walking Street, but appearances can be deceptive. Khun Wee, a security officer outside Club 808, confided “Many of the visitors before the pandemic were Chinese tour groups who came to gawk and maybe visit a convenience store. But they never spent a baht in a nite spot. But the tourists now are mostly Europeans eager to enjoy themselves in female company rather than wandering around the Street.” He concluded that business wasn’t great but better than you might think.

    No explanation has ever been given of the fire-wrecked Nashaa club on Walking Street.The Street has other surprises in store. Halfway down, there is a fairground-style gun stall where you can target-practice with handguns or rifles. Dana, the assistant on duty, said, “We thought the Americans were coming for Christmas, but they never showed up here.” He explained that not all his customers are interested in becoming a crack shot. “One depressed guy yesterday wanted to rent a gun to blow his brains out. He said he’d tried to drown himself in the sea, but the tide was out.”

    Then there’s the mystery of the Nashaa nightclub which was totally destroyed by fire last year. Explanations at the time varied from exploding gas cylinders and rats gnawing through wires to nightwatchmen hastily cooking a meal and much darker theories of deliberate conflagration. No public explanation has ever been given. The nearest we got was a statement by the chief insurance assessor six months ago that his findings were “interesting”.

    Walking Street has now diversified to include rifle practice.The once-famous tourist police and their foreign volunteers, featured in the TV series Big Trouble in Thailand, have vanished from Walking Street. Never to return we are told. In fact, the one kilometer complex seems to be self-policing these days with no visible sign of the boys in brown most evenings. The caretaker at a crumbling bar, apparently known as Beware of the Dog, thinks he has the answer. “All the bars have bouncers to take care of any trouble makers. Having uniformed police patrolling outside all these nighteries, now magically transformed into restaurants, isn’t really a good idea.” He adds a wink.

    The one million dollar question, of course, is the future of Walking Street. Loyalists say that the 75 percent of premises still shuttered will open again once mass tourism resumes. Realists say that the powers-that-be want change which basically means demolition and replacement by a business and leisure district (neo-Pattaya) emulating Miami or Singapore. In the end, it’ll depend on what the cash-rich Thai and Chinese investors of the Eastern Economic Corridor decide to do. The guys who have already built the ring roads, transformed the piers, repaired the beaches (or tried to) and planned a high speed railway to Bangkok are hardly impressed by Pattaya’s traditions. Expect the debate to heat up in the autumn.

  • #2
    As tourists return, Pattaya’s Walking Street set to close to cars again

    Pattaya officials announced on Tuesday that starting today (Thursday), Walking Street will close to cars again, as it did in pre-Covid days. This news comes as more former bars have opened as ‘restaurants’. From 7pm to 6am the street will shut to be shut to cars again. The street has allowed cars at all hours since Covid-19 first broke out in 2020.

    But as Covid-19 restrictions ease, the number of people walking to Walking Street has increased, creating problems as people tried to veer around vehicle traffic. The Pattaya News reports that social media users have mostly given positive feedback after the announcement about closing Walking Street to cars at certain hours.

    Along with several back-peddles for the Thailand Pass, Thailand’s CCSA announced last week it also plans to ease another Covid-19 restriction- the alcohol curfew. Restaurants, and ‘restaurants’, will be able to serve alcohol until midnight, instead of 11:00 pm. Like the Thailand Pass changes, the alcohol curfew change is set to start on May 1.2022

    The slight loosening of the alcohol curfew, along with the easing of travel restrictions, is likely to bring up the number of walkers on Walking Street.

    Last month, an entertainment official in Pattaya called on authorities to move closing times on venues to 1:00 am instead of 11:00 pm. The official was the secretary of the Pattaya Association of Entertainment Venue Operators. Time will only tell how much the new midnight curfew can satisfy entertainment and tourism sector…


    • #3
      A brief history of the sex industry in Thailand

      Thailand is known for many things, but there is one thing that is either commonly joked about or remains hush hush locally. It’s the country’s sex workers and red light districts. There is a fair share of travellers who visit Thailand specifically because they want to experience this ‘vibrant’ side of Thai life. But how did it all start? This is where we take you on a journey and tell you a tale of the Thai sex industry…

      When waves of US soldiers began arriving on Thailand’s beaches during R&R breaks in the Vietnam War in the ’60s and early ’70s, many poor and underprivileged women who needed to provide for their families saw the economic potential. Many rural residents struggled as a result of a lack of work and low incomes, and as Thailand’s population rose in the cities, their financial options declined. As American soldiers began to crowd Thailand’s streets and pubs in quest of companionship and physical intimacy, countless impoverished women were forced to choose between searching for low-paying professions or engaging in sex work.

      Some women opted for the latter option. Several were even forced into prostitution by their families, so they could send money back home and improve their family’s finances and status. After many women in Thailand’s small towns and urban areas in the 1960s made the choice, sex tourism began to flourish in Thailand, Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economy. Shortly after the Vietnam War, the sex industry and the consequences of sex tourism took a dark turn. There was a rapid surge in sex trafficking. Many criminal gangs began to explore ways to profit from the demand for sex. It wasn’t long before there was numerous cases of kidnapping teenage girls from the rural parts of Thailand.

      It began mostly in northeastern Thailand, the poorest area, where traffickers promised young women genuine jobs, only to fool them later when they became indentured. Then another huge problem appeared, adding to the already tenuous legalities and cultural impact of the industry. In the late 1980 and early 1990s, HIV and AIDS exploded in Thailand. Thailand had to find a solution and there were a lot of campaigns to try and educate the population about the dangers and avoidance.

      The use of condoms was heavily promoted and encouraged through public awareness campaigns. It seemed like an uphill battle, but the programs were largely effective. The chances of becoming infected with HIV has now drastically reduced (although it remains an issue in segments of Thailand’s youth). According to UNAIDS, new HIV infections peaked in the early ’90s. People living with the disease peaked at the turn of the century with an estimated 800,000 infections and the number of deaths following suit a few years later with an estimated 57,000 deaths a year in the early aughts.

      Both stats have since been on a downward trend as treatment availability has increased. In 2020, only about half a million people were estimated to be living with HIV in Thailand, with an estimated 12,000 HIV-related deaths nationwide. With the success of the campaigns, the battle against HIV and AIDS was beginning to have positive results. But organised sex trafficking remained a problem. The Thai government’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Program encourages all sex interactions to wear condoms. Condom use in sex institutions has increased from 14% of sex acts in 1989 to 94% in 1994, resulting in a decrease in the rate of all sexually transmitted infections, not only HIV.

      Once the government launched its AIDS education program in 1990, prostitution levels also started to drop, mostly due to the fear of contracting AIDS, while fewer men were less likely to take advantage of them for the same reason. NGOs began their fight against the issue by advocating for new laws that would not only ban human trafficking and prostitution but also actively strive to track down and prosecute criminals. There were over 80,000 female prostitutes working in 6,095 commercial sex venues in Thailand in 1989, with an average fee of US$10.60 per ‘session’. However, 5 years later in 1994, there was a drop of 16,000 (from 80,000 to 66,000) women working in the field. The price for their services had climbed to US$16.30 per hour in related venues such as massage parlours and restaurants.

      The move to gentleman’s clubs, massage parlours, bars and even restaurants during the late 1990s and early 2000s represents a gentrification and normalisation of Thailand’s sex industry. The hubs for the industry also became more defined and started to become semi-respectable international drawcards for the world’s sex tourists. Places like Pattaya (of course), Patong, Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, and Bangla Road in Phuket are now well known for their entertainment ‘options’. There are also equally vibrant ‘sois’ (streets) for the gay community, usually located near the hot zones for bars and nightlife.

      Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, though the consequences are minor and the legislation has plenty of grey areas exploited by operators. Under Section 5 of the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, a person who advertises herself or himself for sex could face a fine of 1,000 THB Pimps and gang members are also highlighted in the Act. They could face a fine of 20,200 baht and up to 10 years in prison for prostituting women, according to the law.

      The act also addresses the seriousness of child trafficking crimes. It stressed that anyone found guilty of having sex with minors will face much higher penalties and longer prison sentences. Jail terms range from 5 years to 20 years, with fines from 100,000 to 400,000 THB These provisions don’t include rape, physical violence or any other serious offences. If anyone is found guilty of those crimes, punishment can be far worse including longer prison terms. Once seen as a south east Asian haven for pedophiles and traffickers, Thailand now has really cleaned up its act with a long list of prosecutions over recent decades, and harsh penalties for those caught.

      Thailand changed its tactics in its fight against sex trafficking in 2008. The definition of human trafficking was expanded by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to also include trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation and trafficking of male victims. It’s all a big step into the right direction. Organisations had been working for a long time to have both genders included in the definition of trafficking, as it wasn’t just women being trafficked and abused.

      Bottomline, the sex industry has brought in a lot of money for Thailand, especially among those who lack better employment options. And many tourists travel a long way just to experience the country’s red light delights. So although officials know that much of the ‘transactions’ are illegal, there is no doubt they’ll continue turning a blind eye to the situation.
      Thailand’s reputation for one of the most exciting red light travel options in the world remains secure.


      • #4
        Nightlife operators blame officials for unfinished work on Pattaya Walking Street

        Business operators on Pattaya Walking Street have blamed the authorities for causing a public nuisance and spoiling the city’s reputation because of an unfinished road renovation project. The Pattaya Walking Street Business Association insist the road needs to be completed faster than the current schedule, and more street lights installed, if it is to save face with the public.

        In January, Pattaya officials, led by the former city mayor, Sontaya Klunpluem, announced that 80% of the renovation of Pattaya Walking Street had already been completed. The mayor revealed electric and communication wires had been buried underground, the street refurbished, footpaths painted, drainage improved, and a retractable roof installed allowing visitors to enjoy the street both day and night. But Sontaya didn’t provide a clear schedule on when the renovation would be completed.

        The Pattaya News reported that business operators had been informed by the authorities that they would complete the work by August. President of the Pattaya Walking Street Business Association, Narit Petcharat, held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the unfinished road project with some business owners at Pattaya King Seafood restaurant on Walking Street.

        Narit says feedback from both Thai and foreign visitors revealed they enjoyed the services from each operator on the Pattaya Walking Street. However, many complained about the unfinished road and sidewalks, and added that the street lights were insufficient.

        Narit says these complaints affect the good reputation of the city and the problems need to be solved as soon as possible. He insists all of the works should be completed and ready before August because the number of visitors will continue to increase.

        Aside from street renovation and light problems, Narit says he wants the authorities to close the street to vehicles to ensure the safety of visitors. Narit feels the project delay might be related to a mayoral election issue.

        Pattaya held the a mayoral election on May 22, but the city still couldn’t officially conclude the result due to the disappearance of ballot papers in some districts. A new election for those districts has been rearranged for June 12, 2022 and Narit hopes the unfinished works will be completed after that.