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Small victory in a dirty war -- bro
Subject: Small victory in a dirty war -- brothels of Chiang Mai
Small victory in a dirty war -- brothels of Chiang Mai
Last week, Bangkok police overrode their Chiang
Mai counterparts to rescue 19 young girls, 14 of them
foreign, from squalid conditions in a city brothel.
About 15 young pale-faced girls wearing T-shirts sit under blue and red
fluorescent lights on a tiered platform covered in worn red carpet.
them is a pink curtain, also well worn. Above their heads is a sign in Thai
wishing everybody a happy new year.
In front of them sit a few Thai men, ready to deliver 110 baht (25 bahts to
the dollar) to a cashier to their left. For that, they expect sex in the
one of 20 wooden rooms at the back of the house-style building which each of
the girls has made their own. (her shirt is effective advertisement for her
body, click here)
Some of their rooms have beds with quilts, spirit houses, posters, and
fluffy toys. They are the ones who have been there a long time. To them, the
a precious piece of territory they can put their own characteristics and
personality intoIn the corner sit two middle-aged women, the mamasan who try
hurry customers into choosing one of the girls behind the glass partition
quick turnover means quick profits.
Next door, one of Chiang Mai's largest hotels, the Mae Ping, is enjoying a
healthy turnover of its own, a legitimate one. It is a significant landmark
in one of
the city's best known brothel districts.
The area has been the target of criticism for years, but it has fallen on
the deaf ears of police who are supposed to suppress its most popular
young, foreign girls. They are sold in almost all of the ten or more
brothels lining the same street. And for the customers, they come at bargain
But late last Wednesday night, the system was changed, at least
temporarily.At about 10:30 p.m. the Rung Ruing Cafe was stormed by 11
Suppression Division Police. They ran down a 20 metre corridor, kicked open
doors, and rounded up 19 girls. They arrested the overweight, aging
mamasan, a 28 year-old cashier, and a male pimp who almost escaped in his
The two girls they were there to rescue, Bootook and Phousi, both 15, were
Akha hill tribe children from Sipsongpanna in southern China. Their parents
were rice farmers, and both had lost their virginity in the village. Like
many other girls from their region, they had been tricked by an agent into
hometown, believing they would be working in a restaurant in affluent
Thailand. (Each time a girl slept with a customer, a card would disappear
bundle to pay off her debt. Sleeping her way through the bundle was her key
to freedom, click here)
An agent took them along a well-beaten path which usually starts in southern
China's Jinghong Province, leads through Keng Tung in Burma, and ends in
Nae Sai, where they are sold to another agent. In their case it was
suspected that a Mae Sai border policeman was involved in the sale The girls
to Chiang Mai, where they were both sold for 10,000 baht and forced to sell
Each was issued a pile of cards, about 1,000 of them, that would effectively
be their bundle of slavery. Each time they sold their bodies for 110 baht, a
would disappear from the bundle. This usually happened at a rate of four per
night. They had been in the brothel for just over a month and would have to
work for at least another eight before their ticket to freedom was secured
if, that is, they did not come into contact with HIV before then.
In the same brothel, there were at least six other similar contracts which
had been signed by parents who sold their daughters, all for between 10,000
After their rescue, the girls smiled and had a rare conversation with their
undercover snitch, an Akha Chinese man in his 30s who had heard about the
captivity from a friend and wanted to help. He had spoken to them before to
ask if they wanted to return home, and the answer had been obvious.The
brothel owners must have become suspicious, as the girls were due to be re
sold to a brothel in Bangkok and were told to be ready to leave by car at
midnight that night.
Their bedrooms had nothing. (bedroom of a 15 year old Chinese girl who was
sold to a brothel for $400.00, click here) The girls were given a small
with which to bathe, a sheet to sleep on, and basic clothes which previous
girls had left behind. "We were told to sleep in the same bed another girl
died in ", they said.The girls later sent a stinging message to the Thai
government. "They don't have things like this in our country. We didn't know
about Thailand. We didn't think there would be things like this. We will now
go home and tell people about what we have been through. The government
must arrest people who do bad things to others."
Both girls had befriended a 21-year-old Burmese girl, Sandra, who had been
forced by poverty to leave here home in Rangoon to look for work. She cried
nightly, finding consolation from her younger friends.Again, tears rolled
slowly down her face as she told her story. She had been beaten often the
owners and had not received any money during here year long stay in hell.
She missed her young baby, who she had intended to support by getting
legitimate work. She wanted only to go home.Like many of the girls in the
brothel, Sandra could speak only a few words of Thai. Of the 19 girls
was one of only four aged 18 or older. Eleven of them had been trafficked
from small villages in Burma. Another girl, a Thai, was five months pregnant
was still sleeping with up to six customers a night.
Police collected evidence, contracts, bundles of debt cards, condoms, small
baskets of make up and toiletries, and money which had already been
that night. The back fence was fringed with barbed wire and the front door
had sharp nails protruding from it from top to bottom. The Wednesday night
followed a similar but failed attempt just over a year ago. Chiang Mai
police had apparently heard a raid was on the way and tipped off brothel
Brothels shut down instantly, only to re open days later.
Last week, when the girls were taken from the brothel to the police station,
local police were called in to take statements from them. One said he
some of the Burmese women were as young as they said.
District Crime Suppression Division chief Lt. Col.Wanchai Charoenpol invited
reporters to his office and explained that he had only been in Chiang Mai 28
days, and that he was about to launch a campaign against many crimes,
including the procurement of child prostitutes.
When asked if he felt sorry for child prostitutes, Lt.Col Wanchai folded his
arms "I am a vegetarian. I have a family I rarely see. The police are
concerned about their sanity:" He said everybody knew about the street and
its active trade in young girls. But the law, he said, was not on his side.
unsure of what charges to file against pimps and procurers. But cracking
down on child and forced prostitution will be a difficult task.
The leader of the first ever full scale police raid on a Patpong bar last
month was led by deputy commander on anti child labour and prostitution
Charuchareet, who was ousted from his position shortly afterwards. He is now
under investigation after allegations that he had embezzled money from
service girls. Other rumours about police involvement in the sex trade are
On the night of the Chiang Mai raid, a map of the street near the Mae Ping
Hotel was given to police showing more than ten brothels, two of which
workers from the Centre for the Projection of Children's Rights claimed had
more than 20 young prostitutes. According to inside police sources, those
brothels and others had been paying police 20,000 baht a month to stay
open..This happens all the time. There is a raid and the brothels close
die down. But they open again every time.
Reprinted from the Bangkok Post, date of 3/10/95