|Child sex trafficking in Pattaya|
"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.
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?
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|
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.