January 11th, 2009
On my way to and from Tonsai, I spent a couple of days in Bangkok. It’s big, its Asian, it’s crowded, busy, and filled with both rich and poor. I found it familiar. What was a little startling to me, though, was the intensity (or so I felt) of the commercialism. Buy. Sell. Buy some more.
Work-wise, I kind of turned off. I didn’t go to Patpong, but with a haphazard nature I did check out the neighborhood streets near where I was staying (off Sukhumvit on one of the Sois, or streets). I’m not a fan of the the girlie bars, but I wanted to see if the reputation was true; there were bars, there were girls working them, and they looked about as bored with it as I was. One evening I saw a patrol of police stopping at every massage parlor…checking for illicit business? Or taking a cut? This all might have shocked me at one time, and will probably shock others, but I realize I’ve grown desensitized to it. For better or worse, in order to keep doing this, I realize I’ve developed a professional distance.
In speaking with a lot of anti-exploitation people, and pro-sex work advocates, there seems to be a general sentiment that increased law enforcement will–and does–have a positive effect. But there is still a lot of corruption. Bangkok, they say, is no different than Phnom Penh. It’s just better organized and cleaner. Take, for instance, a friend of mine who was savagely beaten to unconsciousness by a gang from a rival university in Bangkok. It was caught on surveillance camera but only part of the video seems to exist. One student was arrested while the rest of the gang was let go after administrators of the university stepped into the investigation; my friend believes the police were paid to quietly ignore it. With his medical costs covered, it looks like he’s supposed to let it go too.
Maybe. But this video clip isn’t about all of that. I was just a tourist. And, yes, I bought the t-shirts to prove it.
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