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Archive for February, 2010

“Brothel Raids and forced rescues of sex workers are an ongoing issue across Asia.
In this article Pornpit Pukmai of Empower Foundation writes about recent raids in Phuket, Thailand”

Once again we see the news of raids and arrests with or without entrapment games and the media taken along for the show. Time and time again..over and over again year after year. It seems like the perpetual symbol to show the good works of a whole range of people in positions of authority.

It’s maybe the authorities and politicians way of declaring “See I have these problems in my area all sorted and under control” or maybe to take the public’s mind off other issues, to answer the USA or their own superiors, to fit in with the propaganda against migrants, or to promote the anti-trafficking law, or the drug law or to get a good TIP Report or.. or ..or….

It seems that we sex workers are the most popular group to become scapegoats for any department wanting to show their good works on any issue. Take for example the crackdown on the registration of migrant workers that takes place at the beginning of every year when old permits expire and new ones must be made. This occurs at the same time as the inspection for the registration and paying taxes for Entertainment Places so why not kill two birds with one stone and carry out both? Better yet, while they’re about it they may as well test our urine for drugs to follow the drug law, check our music for copyright infringements, and of course make a few arrests for prostitution. Our workplaces become one stop centre for authorities wanting to produce a good record with very little trouble.

The Phuket Governor was reported to say, in part, he organised the recent raids as the businesses were bothering the tourists. But did the raids really make the tourist’s holiday better? After all sex workers are one of the main reasons tourists come to Thailand from all over the world following the governments own tourism promotion.

How do raids, crackdowns and arrests for prostitution improve the situation? Do the video and pictures of armed police and army intimidating partly dressed tiny women add to the dignity of the police and armed forces? Will raids and arrests bring an instant end to our profession? If it did, what high paid jobs has the government prepared for the hundreds of thousands of us to work in immediately? Our families and communities depend on our incomes. What would the government do? This is without considering all the migrant sex workers who will need work. Furthermore what would happen to the 7% GPD we earn for Thailand?

Arresting sex workers is easy, we make very good scapegoats as most often we cannot assert our rights and speak out. When will those in authority finally recognize that accepting our work is work is the only way to solve the problems in our industry? Instead they prefer to profit from fining us … think about how much money is taken from us year after year…how much is earned in our name … how many eat from the fruits of our labour? Are migrant sex workers especially good to arrest because we have a price on our heads? The law provides for awarding cash rewards to those that inform on and for those who arrest undocumented migrants.

When laws are given more importance than human rights then we cannot access our rights. Laws become a barrier to the achievement of human rights, especially for undocumented migrant sex workers in Thailand. The laws do not protect us the laws only punish us and leave us open to exploitation. How do we assert our rights when the laws against us are so numerous and so strong? Sex workers, both migrant and non-migrant, do not want to break any law but we cannot accept to sacrifice our human rights especially in favour of unjust laws that are used against us for promotion and exploitation

Deportation…is that really an answer? We all know migrants from Burma must and will return again. There are now said to be around 4 million migrants from Burma in Thailand. Can they all be arrested and deported? Is it practical to arrest 20 or 30 at a time or is it a show? Is raid and deportation going to solve any of the problems?

When Thailand began to allow undocumented migrants to register and work legally the government did not include our work, Entertainment Work, in the categories for registration. This is despite the numbers of migrant workers in the industry; despite the support to work from Thai sex workers and employers; despite the fact there are enough customers for all and despite the fact we work in legally registered establishments. Instead of allowing migrant sex workers to obey the law and access our rights, the government keeps migrant sex workers as undocumented and outside the law; ready and available for arrest whenever needed!

Have authorities ever considered having employers cooperate in taking responsibility for their workers? Just registering the establishment, as a legal entertainment place is enough is it? If the requirement to register their workers with Social Security was enforced, and if migrant workers could gain work permits then no one is outside the law like out laws anymore…the business and the workers become just like other workers.

Is anyone serious about improving the situation or do we want to keep up this wonderful tradition of going through the raid and arrest ceremony on special occasions or whenever there is a need to demonstrate that “I am the one who can get things organized and sort out these problems in my town”?

Pornpit Puckmai
Empower Foundation
www.empowerfoundation.org
Enquiries: empower@cm.ksc.co.th

28/01/ 2010

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