Churches Rescue Thailand's Sex Tourism Workers

Protestants and Catholics work against $2.2 billion industry

Thailand's tiny Christian community is at the forefront of a campaign against a thriving prostitution industry in Pattaya, a seaside tourist center, 150 kilometers south of Bangkok.

The Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) and the Roman Catholic Church are running institutions in Pattaya to help prostitutes to leave their trade. (Thailand, with a total population of 63 million, has about 200,000 Christians.) The institutions also try to prevent vulnerable children from falling into prostitution.

"In Pattaya everybody sells bodies. Nobody is shy of it," said Piangta Chumnoi, a Presbyterian who runs the CCT's Pattaya Project.

Most of the 18 children, ranging in age from 3 to 15, who are housed in Chumnoi's center in Pattaya are the offspring of prostitutes, male as well as female. Many of them have been abandoned by their parents.

The Fountain of Life centers run by Catholic Good Shepherd Sisters, and orphanages run by the Redemptorist Fathers also play a key role in Christian efforts to halt the booming sex trade which flourishes in the hotels along Pattaya's beach.

Chumnoi told Ecumenical News International (ENI): "Pattaya is special. There is prostitution in Bangkok and Chiang Mai [north of Bangkok]. But here [in Pattaya]," she stressed, "tourism means only sex tourism. How many women tourists do you find here?"

Although over a quarter of the eight million foreign tourists who visit Thailand each year go to Pattaya, the number of women tourists in Pattaya is "very nominal", according to a local travel agent who spoke to ENI on condition of anonymity.

Though the exact figure of those involved in the sex tourism trade in Pattaya is not available, the travel agent told ENI in an interview in her office near south Pattaya beach that ...

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