A number of recent busts have shut down several sex shops in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Barbershops known in Vietnamese as hot tocs that offer a whole lot more than a trim around the ears seem to have been hardest hit.
All in all it seems that at least a dozen shops have been shuttered. That’s just what I know about. It’s quite possible that the number is much higher. Interestingly, the owners of these shops were usually hit with charges like “operating a business without a license”.
According to everything I know, the women workers will probably be given hefty fine that amounts to around 250 US dollars and let go. In the past there were reports that women arrested for prostitution in Vietnam were forced into rehab centers even though most of them weren’t drug users. So if true this would be a step up.
Several of the hostess bars on Hai Ba Trung were also raided, with the owners and workers carted away. At least that’s the report I have received. And since several bars are now closed it seems believable to me.
Prostitution busts in HCMC
I’m a few days late reporting this serious of events, but I’m sure it’s still news to most of my readers. While the usual discussion boards around the internet are alight with stories of shop shut downs, the official media is remaining rather mum, especially when one considers the scale of this crackdown. Still, there is a little something to be found in English. Thanh Nien News posted some information on one bust at the end of July:
Police in Ho Chi Minh City busted another prostitution ring that caters to foreigners at a local barbershop on Monday, Dan Tri online newspaper reported.
When police raided the VIP barbershop in Tan Binh District, they found a female staff member having sex with a Chinese man who was charged VND500,000 (US$23.46) for the service, according to the news report.
It quoted police as saying that the ring specifically targeted Chinese, Korean and Japanese men.
Headed by Tang Thi Thu Trang, the barbershop had some 10 female workers who had to pay the owner VND200,000 each time they collected the fee of VND500,000 from customers.
A few things stand out about this report. First is the fee. It appears the gentlemen in question was getting a discount, because the going rate for Westerners at these sorts of places is usually closer to 700,000. This is opposed to usual $10 charged at the blowjob only barbershops. The second thing that seems curious is that police caught the worker and customer in the act. How could that happen? I very much doubt it was out in the open. Even if police advanced into the shop without the management alerting the women at work — which is itself highly unlikely — they would still encounter a locked door. When they pounded on the door it would give the customer and worker time to get up before letting them in. Finally, it’s not common for shops set up for foreigners to be targeted. The reason these shops only aim at foreigner customers to begin with is to avoid law enforcement.
Sex shops in Vietnam
Of course it’s hard for any sex shop to operate under the radar in Vietnam. Especially when it’s going down in a “barbershop”. At the very least, someone with some power locally should have known about it. Normally I would think that the shut down of a shop would indicate that the owners ran afoul of the wrong people. In this case though it doesn’t seem likely. The scope of the sex shop sweep is simply too wide.
The Thanh Nien post continues:
Last week the city’s police busted two prostitution rings catering to foreigners, one of which was also based in Tan Binh District.
I haven’t been able to find any official reports on shut downs of some of the blowjob hot tocs, but I have it on good authority that most of the more well known places have been raided and closed. Will they reopen? I have no way of knowing.
It’s almost impossible for outsiders to know exactly what’s going on. One thing is to be sure though, it’s not a fun time to be in the market for sexual services in Ho Chi Minh City. Sure there is still plenty available off the beaten path. But it’s going to be tougher and more expensive than ever for most.
Of course Thailand is nearby with a massive sex industry. One certainly could argue that Thailand and Vietnam are totally different countries. That is indeed true. However, with recent discussions among government officials over legalizing prostitution in Vietnam and the revelation that “many sex workers in HCMC do it by choice,” the recent busts seem somewhat absurd.
My position continues to be that once and for all, worldwide, prostitution should be legal. That’s no real surprise, right?
A few months ago I made a post entitled “where to get a happy ending massage in America” in which I expressed my disgust in the seemingly never ending number of stings and busts in the United States.
The women who work are the people who suffer the most from these kinds of crackdowns. That is a reality that is lost on many anti-sex work campaigners. The last thing I want to do is make things harder on any sex workers.
I will continue to provide as much information as I can, all followed of course by the disclaimer at the bottom of each page that the material here is “purely fictional and intended only as adult entertainment.”