Final Musings From Pattaya, Thailand...

Everyone knows Pattaya is famous for this...

A lesser known side to the seedy city is 'Boyz Town'...

It's not only girls from Isan (อีสาน), the poor region in North East Thailand, that come to Pattaya to work in the sex tourism industry. Young 'boyz' sell themselves to gay sex tourists here too.

The city is also a place where children are placed at great risk. At around 1am on Saturday, I saw this prostitute along 'Walking Street', the main strip of go-go bars in Pattaya. She was holding a one month old baby. The noise coming from the surrounding bars and discos was deafening. I indicated to her through basic sign language, (covering my ears and pointing at the newborn), that the music might not be so good for the baby, but all she did was throw me back a blank hollow look. The problem was I didn't know how to shout to her in Thai some unsolicited medical advice along the lines of "Prolonged exposure to very loud noise can severely damage a fraglile newborn's eardrums! It can cause long-lasting damage to a child's hearing!" There she was, late at night, out on the strip, with a hardened friend who also had a toddler in tow. And they didn't seem to be begging. When I asked her, she told me in broken English that they would go home at 4am. For the kids' sakes, I really really hope they weren't 'working'...

It only came to my attention a few days later, through my Twitter, that the Hong Kong-based ADM Capital Foundation are funding a project in Pattaya to help children at risk of neglect and sexual abuse. (Incidentally, ADMCF are also providing big bucks to Bloom, a marine environmental NGO who are doing great work for the sharks in Hong Kong). According to ADMCF's website, "Almost 2.5 million international tourists visit Pattaya every year, making it one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations. Unfortunately, with a population of 700,000 at the peak of tourist season, Pattaya is arguably the main destination for sex tourism in Southeast Asia. The large number of tourists attracts street-living children and youth. Over 2,000 children transit Pattaya every year from poorer Thai provinces. Increasingly, migrants are also coming from neighboring Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Children who grow up on the streets of any large Asian city live an unstructured life. Theft, begging and peddling drugs often become their reality. In Pattaya, young girls and boys living on the streets are also at risk of sexual abuse". 

Pattaya is also a place where telescopic truncheons, knuckledusters, flick knives, vicious-looking collapsible hammers and even tasers are openly on sale in the street. All made in China, of course. Quite why anyone would want to buy a taser on their holdiday is beyond me. 'Land of Smiles' anyone?

In delightful Pattaya you can cuddle an endangered species for a 100 baht (HKD24.00/USD3.00), just like this Russian tourist.

A 'slow loris' is a slow-moving rainforest dwelling primate from South East Asia, and their numbers are being slowly wiped out by illegal traders. Their natural habitat is from NE India to the Philippines, from China to Indonesia, and every rainforest in between.

But their cuteness is also their curse. Slow lorises are being hunted to the verge of extinction for their use in traditional medicine, but also to sell to Japanese housewives, who, according to a three year old article on the BBC website, pay illegal wildlife traffickers anywhere between US$1,500 and US$4,500 per cute creature. Now I'm not sure which type of slow loris this is, but according to The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), all species of loris are listed as 'Vulnerable', except for the Javan Slow Loris of Indonesia which unfortunately finds itself further down the list, at 'Endangered'.

Seeing as the World Cup is on right now, I popped into a bar to catch the England vs USA match, the result of which was a most disappointing 1:1. In the bar I came across some England fans. More wildlife, except this time, unfortunately, not of the endangered variety...

Well worth reading is a great blog post about sex tourism in Asia by the anti-child trafficking NGO Love146, which can be found here.

ALEX HOFFORD : HONG KONG CHINA PATTAYA THAILAND PHOTOGRAPHER

All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011