Bound to the sex trade

Bangkok's red-light districts

I arrived at the Bangkok airport at midnight. After making my way through customs and immigration, I was greeted by an airport information agent who helped me arrange transportation to my hotel. I was astonished when he asked me if I would be interested in “the company of some ladies” during my stay. A little groggy from traveling and unsure of what I’d heard, I asked him to repeat himself. When I politely declined, the man persisted in offering to arrange “something nice” for me.

I later learned that, according to United Nations estimates, as many as 70 percent of male tourists flying into Bangkok intend to engage in the sex trade. Western men in Thailand are simply assumed to be sex tourists. The country is a major center of sex trafficking, which globally makes up a huge share of human trafficking—the world’s third most profitable venture, after trade in illegal weapons and drugs.

 

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