More on Repression in Bangkok’s red light districts
A month ago I wrote about reports of police repression in and around some of the more popular adult entertainment areas in Bangkok. Some of that was based on word of mouth, some was based on news reports and a bit was based on information sent to me by people on the ground. While there’s no evidence that any kind of organized campaign was carried out across the city it is clear that some activities that got in the way of the fun did take place.
Some of the events weren’t really all that uncommon. For example, there have been stories of foreigners being stopped and searched for years. So why the increase in reporting? It may be that these searches increased recently, it may be that people with access to media and people in high places were searched or it may be that someone was looking for something juicy to write about and that expanded with the help of the internet. I don’t know. What I do know is that things like sudden visits to massage parlors telling them to close their doors and take down websites has not historically been so regular.
Since writing the original report I’ve come across more information. Again this has come in the form of word of mouth and news reports but it is supported by the words of people directly involved in the industry as I had the chance to talk to quite a few of them about these things over the last few weeks.
I believe that many readers of this website are interested in these happenings so with that in mind I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. I will update again in the future if I discover anything else.
The new police superintendent of Thonglor has instructed his officers not to search foreigners unless they are acting suspiciously. “I have instructed policemen under my command to strictly refrain from searching foreigners or asking to see their passports unless necessary”, Pol Col Khajohnpong Jitpakpoom told the Bangkok Post. According to the article searches can only be done in public with at least two officers with the rank of sub-lieutenant or higher present. The superintendent said went on to say “if the [foreign] person sees an officer and appears to be calm, then we are not allowed to conduct a search”. Pol Col Khajohnpong took his position in mid-January amid reports of increased harassment of foreigners in the Thonglor area. “It is our job as policemen to provide services to tourists rather than conduct searches. We need to create confidence among them,” Pol Col Khajohnpong said
Meanwhile special visits have continued at oily massage parlors on Sukhumvit Soi 24, Soi 24/1 and Soi 33 in February. According to reports and based on first hand stories I’ve been told that police have visited on a few occasions to tell massage parlors to close their doors. From what I hear the visits are announced in advance over the phone which gives the targets some time to prepare. Visits usually entail a look around and a command to shut down at a certain time which is usually 10 PM. Underscoring the fact that the laws aren’t even clear to those who they effect most one woman in the industry told me she had to hide condoms because “it’s okay if they know I do blowjobs and handjobs but sex is not allowed.” Making money doesn’t seem to be the motivation for the visits as there hasn’t been any mention of people asking for bribes or increased “taxes.”
Up the road a little further we come to Soi Cowboy. I haven’t heard anything about the supposed searches of foreigners that were going on there before my last report but the police are still present and apparently they are telling certain shops that they need to shut down on time. While closing times have always varied depending on any number of circumstances there are actual laws that require the bars to close at a certain hour. From what I hear places on Soi Cowboy have been told they must be definitively closed by 1 AM on more than one occasion.
That pretty much sums it up for now. I’m always interested to hear from the readers on this issue, especially those who are in the areas in question on a regular basis.