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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Danger in Paradise

Child sex trafficking in Pattaya
The gay community here is all abuzz.

"Eddie" was caught in the bathroom of the local McDonald's with a 12-year old boy. Which is stupid on more levels than one has time to enumerate.

In the first place, sex - any kind of sex - is amply available here in Thailand but especially here in Pattaya which has the dubious distinction of being a "destination location" for those looking to participate in the commercial sex industry.

The same is true in Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam, Tokoyo, Singapore, India and most of Asia.

According to one news report I read, of the estimated 20,000 commercial sex workers in Pattaya, hundreds are children who are either lured from their villages by the idea of opportunity or by criminal networks.

Pattaya has a multi-billion dollar multinational sex industry with links to drug trafficking, money laundering and an expanding regional cross-border traffic in women - especially from Russia and Ukraine.

In Thailand, trafficking is a 500 billion baht annual business, which is 50%- 60% of the government's annual budget and more lucrative than the drug trade.

You want sex? Man? Woman? Anybody? No problem.

Why, then, have sex with a child?

Because, apparently, you can. And, for the most part, get away with it. Unless, of course, you are dumb enough to frequent places like the bathrooms at McDonalds where everyone knows there is CCTV (Closed Circuit Television). Men's or women's facilities - you can't miss the CCTV signs on the door as you enter.

From what I understand, "Eddie" is from a little town just a few miles north of Liverpool. Father left the family around dubious circumstances. Lived alone with his mother all of his adult life until she died about three years ago.

He reportedly has an older brother who is married and lives and works in Liverpool, but Eddie has inherited the house. Been living and traveling off his inheritance since Mum died. Due to retire in May.

He's been coming to Pattaya three or four times a year for the past three years. His family thinks he's coming for "the women". Which, I suppose, was okay. "Normal" you know, especially for an older "life long bachelor" who is about to enter the ranks of an old age pensioner.

But, of course, he's been able to satisfy his fantasy having sex with Thai "lady boys" who are men but look like women who look like they're 12 years old but they are 18 and so "legal".

The local press is all over the story. Apparently, it's important to the Thai government to let people know that child sex trafficking will not be tolerated here. Offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, which here means that he will be in prison for at least a few months and then he will be deported to UK. There, he'll spend additional time in prison and be on the sex-offender registry.

No one is quite sure what will happen to his pension. The consensus among the Brits here is that he may well be denied it because he has committed a sex crime and is registered as a pedophile and has brought disgrace to his homeland.

The Thai prisons are notorious for being more like the 7th rung of Dante's Inferno. There is no food or water except that which is brought in by family or friends. There are 25 or 30 men to a cell. A hole in the ground as a place to deposit one's bodily waste. No showers or sinks. No fans or anything to move the heavy moisture laden air around.

The reaction from the gay community here has been fascinating. Everyone feels sad for their friend when they are also outraged by his stupidity and the way it makes all gay men look bad.

No one is talking about the 12 year old Thai boy.

Frankly, I don't think "Eddie" is gay. He's a bit "slow" intellectually. Some have described him as "simple". They say that, when the cops brought him to his apartment to get his passport, he could have bought himself off for about 5,000 baht each policeman. Why he didn't, they say, is evidence enough that the poor lad doesn't have both oars in the water.

He's also a "loner". Doesn't hang around much with his British mates. Sleeps until past noon, comes down to the pool where he mostly drinks Chang beer all afternoon - one after another, sometimes with a beer in one hand and a glass of gin in the other - and then lumbers off around 1800 hours when the rest of the crew either goes out or goes home for their supper. He isn't seen again until the following afternoon at the pool when he drinks his way through another day.

I suspect - and it's only my speculation - that "Eddie's" father's disappearance from the family has something to do with his inability to form relationships with anyone as well as his attraction to young, under-aged Thai boys.

Not that it ultimately matters, and I'm not saying this to excuse this heinous behavior, but I'm betting solid money his psychological profile will include sexual abuse when he was about 12 years old. I think this is a pretty clear case of "arrested development".

Conspiracy theories abound. Everyone is convinced that it was a set up. That, the young boy had been caught before and, as part of his penance, was used by the Thai police to set up a European man so that the Thai people - and the whole rest of the world - would have evidence that Thailand does not tolerate child trafficking. The child, they say, was probably back out on the streets turning tricks that same afternoon.

It's all rubbish, they say. This sort of thing goes on more than anyone is willing to admit. Just not in places where there's closed circuit television.

So, I ask, this is the boy's fault?

Well, they say, it's just the culture here. What can you do?

Ah, I ask, so this is like in the US or UK or most places in the 'civilized world' where women are still payed 65 cents compared to every dollar made by a man? It's just the way it is? Or, perhaps, it's rather like when women wearing short skirts who are raped are really to blame because they were "asking for it."

I was met by stone cold silence and pained looks all 'round. I'm not making friends here as long as I follow this line of thought and ask these kinds of questions. It is, after all, a man's world.

The sadness of the day "Eddie" was arrested moved into anger the next day and now it's just fodder for gossip and dish. Apparently, "Eddie" has been moved to a prison closer to Bangkok where it is surmised he will stay a few months - through the worst of the summer heat and oppressive humidity, no doubt - until the Thai and British consulates work out the arrangements for his deportation to UK.

That is, if he doesn't either off himself or is killed in prison. Folks here say that the odds are greater for that happening than for him to return to UK.

Or, perhaps, that's wishful thinking on their part. It would simply add to the drama and the dish.

I'm still outraged. I'm not buying the bit about the culture or the attitude about sex as some sort of permissive factor in all this. We're talking young peasant boys and girls who are taken from their families on poor farms in the north who don't think they have any other options to put food in the mouths of their children than to sell off some of their children.

THAT's what needs to be changed. At the very least, the money being made by the government from this "industry" ought to be channeled into improving the lives of the peasants in the North, until it reaches a point of diminishing return.

I wonder if anyone has thought of that? Probably not. Then again, no one has asked me. I suspect some of the social service agencies that are here are working out strategies to end child trafficking. None of them really seem to be working.

As promised - me on ZaZa the elephant with my mahout Cam
You can only go so far shoveling the pollution out of the water in front of you. You have to go upstream to see what is polluting the waters and work on solving that problem in order to have fresh water to drink where you are.

It's hard to remember that I'm on vacation and probably ought not be thinking about these things, but it's hard to put this "incident" of child trafficking on the shelf.

Having been this close to it, however, is closer than I ever want to be again in my life. If it's all the same to you, I'd rather be celebrating Thai culture and riding elephants.

The poor, said Jesus, will always be with us.

You may not be able to 'push the river' as the Buddhist say, but you can certainly go upstream and clean it up. 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

While you are up stream cleaning up the garbage, you might give some consideration to cleaning up the other half of this transaction, the men who pay for sex from children and adults. If there was no market for young, poor people there would be no sex trade. Time to put the blame for this sick outrage where it clearly belongs. Males of all sexual preferences who travel to, or live in, places where they can get the most "bang" for their money, are a sorry group, and need to be identified and addressed as such.

Brother David said...

I wondered how long you would go before this subject came up. Sorry, farang lady, Statesonian and European Sex Vacations were the first thing that came to mind when you said you were going to Thailand to visit your friend who had retired, of all places to Pattaya, a well known destination for child sex.

I just hoped and prayed that you did not learn anything bad about anyone you know and care for!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Anonymous - Please read the rules of posting and leave your name next time. I've published it so I can respond.

You are right - the best way to attack this problem is to attack the consumer. If there are no consumers, there will be no "product". Supply and demand is absolutely key.

Unfortunately, the problem is more complicated than that. Frankly, I think there is a place in the world for commercial sex trade. I don't like it. I don't approve. But, I think there is a place for it. However, I think it needs to be carefully regulated.

It is a world-wide problem. It's most intense in "developing countries" but it's a HUGE problem in the USA, as well.

I think we continue to bring shame to those who abuse the commercial sex trade industry and abuse children but we work through every avenue we can - especially local, state and federal government agencies - to make certain that no one is being abused.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Brother David - Pattaya has a reputation for being a "location destination" for those who wish to engage in the commercial sex industry which it earned during the Viet Nam War. Truth of it is, there are many, many other wonderful aspects to Pattaya besides the commercial sex industry. It's a beautiful place with lots to see - like Fire Island, Provincetown, San Francisco, etc.

Another truth is that this is happening in Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, Mumbai, Delhi, and, and AND all over the USofA from NYC, to LA and Omaha, Nebraska.

As I say, I think there is a place in the world for the commercial sex industry IF it is carefully regulated and IF there are no children involved.

The way to deal with this is to address the serious poverty that exists in these "developing nations". Begin to improve the lot of the people and people won't be lured to send their children into the sex industry in order to stay alive.

We have much work to be done.

Oh, and to be clear, I only met "Eddie" once. I thought him a sad drunk. This is as close as I want to get to this kind of situation but I think it happened for a reason. I'm not certain what I'm supposed to do about it but I certainly am thinking and praying about it.

I invite readers here to do the same.

M. Fehrman said...

Sorry about the Anonymous posting. It was not my intention to conceal my identity. I believe if it's worth saying, it's worth taking credit (or blame) for. I simply chose the wrong box to check. I still stand by my statements, and while I do pray for these people who choose to take advantage of those less fortunate than themselves, I also continue to be appalled and sickened by these men. And yes they are almost exclusively males who abuse others to fulfill their own sick wants and needs. I am not condemning those who engage in consensual sex with adults, but I draw the line with children. And, a difficult childhood with abuse, sexual or otherwise, is no excuse for bad or criminal adult behavior. We are, each of us, responsible for our own behavior, and responsible for breaking the chain of abuse. I'm sorry for "Danny", but if arrest and imprisonment will keep even one more child from being subjected to the horror of sexual abuse by him, then I think it's for the best.