Thai Government research, which shows that tourists are looking for beautiful culture rather than sex, has amazed most bar owners. “We must have been getting it wrong for decades” Colin Clap told Private Tye. Colin is the owner of the Cockortwo Bar and has already started to make changes in the light of the new information. The dancers will soon be wearing classical Thai dancers costumes instead of bikinis, he said. The sound system has been ripped out and replaced by a wooden xylophone. Colin is thinking of changing the name to the Plinky Plonk bar.
Changes have been profound at the Drippy Doolins Bar. The bikinis have already gone and the girls are now wearing traditional North-Eastern clothes. The stage is deserted except for one girl stood reciting poems by Sunthorn Phu. Private Tye's reporter asked for a beer but owner Peter Pox said “Beer's off, its only Lao Khao now. We have to be culturally correct.”
There was a scene of chaos at "The Intruder" upstairs live show bar. The owner, Harry Herpes, was trying to hang up a white bed sheet while the girls and boys were fiddling with sticks attached to bits of leather. We are trying to make a shadow puppet theater, Harry explained. "There are plenty of shadow puppets for sale at tourist gift stalls and fake antique shops, but nobody knows how to uses them. Apparently the last person who could do a shadow puppet show died twenty years ago. Shadow puppets were replaced by a foreign thing called the Cinema in the 1950s."
At the Cabin Boy Karaoke Bar, our reporter found all the tables and chairs had been removed and replaced by mats on the floor for patrons to use. The karaoke equipment was still there, but owner, Adrian Aids, said it would be Thai folk songs only from now on. We are having some of these translated into phonetic English so that tourists can sing along. Should be more fun than “Danny Boy” or “Yellow rose of Texas”, he said with a worried expression on his face.
Police said they were looking to prosecute venues employing underage and illegal migrant workers, but only one of the venues raided was shut down.
There was no link between the tourism minister's aim to rid Thailand of its sex tourism industry and the raids, a police spokesman said.
The tourism sector accounts for about 10 percent of gross domestic product and sex worker groups said the minister's vision of a prostitution-free Thailand would dent that.
"The police presence already drives off a number of clients who come to relax or drink at bars," said Surang Janyam, director of Service Workers in Group (SWING), which provides sex workers with free medical care and vocational training.
"Wiping out this industry is guaranteed to make Thailand lose visitors and income."
Many sex workers come from the impoverished northeast and see selling their bodies as a way out of poverty.
One former sex worker from the northeastern province of Maha Sarakham, who declined to be identified, told Reuters she entered Bangkok's sex trade at the age of 19 and earned up to THB5,000 baht a night, nearly 20 times the minimum wage of THB300 baht per day.
"No one wants to work in this business, but it's fast and easy money," she said.
NightLight and SWING said they would welcome the sex industry's closure if the government had a plan to ensure that sex workers could support themselves without falling back into the business.
"If they want to close the sex industry, they must first have jobs ready to support sex workers," said Surang.