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Thailand Tries to Get Rid of Sex Tourism

In an effort to attract wealthier visitors, Thai officials are attempting to get rid of the country's reputation as a sex tourism destination.

According to Reuters, Thai Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul believes the sex industry is not Thailand’s primary attraction; instead, tourists come for the country’s beaches and ancient temples.

“We want Thailand to be about quality tourism,” Wattanavrangkul told the news outlet. “We want the sex industry gone.”

In recent weeks, Bangkok police have launched several raids in the capital, targeting well-known establishments in an attempt to weed out illegal foreign workers as well as minors.

Though these actions coincide with the tourism minister’s recent comments, according to Asian Correspondent police claim they have no intention of getting rid of the sex industry, which caters largely to Thai men, but simply to crackdown on illicit behavior.

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, however this fact is largely ignored.

A report by World Outreach International estimates that as many as 70% of male tourists visiting Thailand come specifically for sex. The country averages 10 million tourists annually, according to the report, 60% of whom are male, meaning as many as 4.2 million men arrive in Thailand each year for the purpose of sex tourism.

While revamping Thailand’s image among foreign tourists will take work, those involved in the sex industry also argue that a crackdown on prostitution could hurt the local economy in addition to decreasing tourist numbers. The organization Service Workers in Group, also known as Swing, supports sex workers through vocational training and medical assistance. If the government wishes to get rid of the industry, says director Surang Janyam, it must provide sex workers with a viable way out.

 “Wiping out this industry is guaranteed to make Thailand lose visitors and income,” Janyam told Reuters. “If they want to close the sex industry, they must first have jobs ready to support the sex workers.”

[Photo via Thai Blog News]

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