This year in Thailand, Valentines Day expenditure looks like it will dip but the sexual escapades between Thai students at university and high schools looks like going in the other direction according to a shocking new poll just released ahead of the worldwide day of Love. Thailand has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world as Thai teenagers increasingly engage in pre marital sex.
In the last twenty years, Valentine’s Day has grown exponentially in influence and as a day for increased consumer spending in Thailand. For 2019, there are signs of a dip as the day itself has come in for criticism as day which encourages premarital sex in Thailand and there are signs of an economic slow down. In fact, the worst fears of Thailand’s conservative groups were confirmed when a shocking survey from a respected Thai university showed that 60% of university students were planning on celebrating February 14th by having sex with a partner.
In the last two decades, Valentine’s Day has become a huge favorite in Thailand among both younger generations and older as popular western culture merges well with Thailand’s love of romance and the love that exists between men and women. Thai women have been particularly enthralled. It is often Thai women who present their boyfriends or husbands to be not only with flowers but also with cash gifts. This year, however, it is a bit more subdued.
Valentine’s Day blues as Thai economy may be slowing. Expenditure this year to be down by 3%
There is a rapid feeling in Thailand, developing in recent months, that Thailand’s economy is facing headwinds and this has produced a dip in public confidence. There is no firm economic data yet to confirm this but it has been reported that Valentine’s Day in Thailand for 2019 will generate ฿3. 7 billion. This is over a 3% drop on last year and the lowest level in the last few years. It still represents an average per head spend of over ฿2,300 which is nearly a half weeks salary for most low level Thai employees. This still, it must be observed, represents a significant commitment by Thai people to love and romance.
Valentine’s Day under fire in Thailand from conservatives who see it as a day fueling promiscuity
However, the lower than expected figures for expenditure may not only be caused by a slowing economy. In recent years, the day to celebrate love in Thailand has come under fire from some more conservative and religious quarters. Thailand is a deeply religious and conservative country, a fact, which most foreigners do not entirely appreciate. There is growing concern in the country about young Thai teenagers who are increasingly having sexual relations before they are married. There is also concern about a growing incidence of rape or sexually transmitted diseases which are all blamed on imported western culture. For those who harbor such fears, Valentine’s Day is an entirely unwelcome day of promotion.
Nearly 30% of Thai high school students planning to have illicit sex for the day of love
A survey that came out this week lends some credence to such fears. It showed that Valentine’s Day in Thailand is still an enthusiastic favorite with university and high school students. The survey, conducted by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce shows nearly 60% of university students were planning on engaging in sexual activity to celebrate the universal day of love on February 14th. A figure of nearly 30% for high school students is even more shocking. By comparison, the survey showed only a minuscule number of already married Thai love partners plan on have an early night in or doing something special for the day. The figures was only 0.1%. Among the sexually motivated Thai students, a number of illicit rendezvous points were planned with the most favored option, at over a third or 34% of those polled, being a university dorm area. Over 23% planned to rent motel rooms while over 20% planned to use rooms that are rented out by the hour, specifically for such pursuits. Such facilities are common in Thailand where many Thai men and women have extra marital affairs or illicit affairs with ‘gigs’ which is the term for short term companions.
Thailand has the largest teenage birth rate in the world as Thai teenagers break from tradition
Valentine’s Day has, in recent years, brought Thai government initiatives to check on hotel bookings and to encourage Thai teenagers to act responsibly and more in keeping with traditional Thai values which are strictly old fashioned. It is a serious issue. Thailand has one of the highest teenage birth rates in the world. Thailand’s Ministry for Health puts the figure at 54 per 1000 girls aged between 15 and 19. A staggering figure compared to western norms. Valentine’s Day, as we can see from the survey acts as a ‘trigger’ day for many young Thai people and hence the danger. The increasing popularity of the day has disturbed many conservative thinkers in the kingdom. In recent years, the Thai government, as well as running information campaigns and deploying law enforcement, has also made available large numbers of condoms to young people.
Pre marital sex in Thailand is a big issue
‘If kids really love each other, it’s better for them to go and free birds and fish or go to the temple,’ a Thai city official, Pirapong Saicheua, was quoted by Reuters in 2015. Thailand has always been a deeply conservative country and the current Thai government, lead by the Thai military junta, has been determined and indeed made progress at losing the country’s image as a cheap sex destination. There is also an renewed emphasis in Thailand today on its own traditional culture and values. The rise in premarital sex, an accepted way of life in western countries, is not acceptable to most Thai people. The influence in Thailand of seniors and older people who are respected by the young in Thailand means that this message is not simply scoffed at as it would be in western countries. However, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce poll shows the current direction despite the high levels of teenage pregnancy and a growth in sexually transmitted diseases. While Thailand has worked hard to wipe out the threat of HIV in the country, there are still thousands of new cases each year and most of them are under 25 years of age.
The debate over Valentine’s Day will continue in Thailand. On a more positive note, it is now also seen as a day for young couples to celebrate love and marriage. So perhaps a balance can be struck, after all, between old values and new.