Pattaya’s dark resurgence: Shocking revelations as German and American tourists allegedly bribed their way out of child sex abuse charges. The scathing documentary exposes a seedy underbelly, prompting urgent investigations and public outrage.

Police in Pattaya, on Sunday, announced an urgent investigation into claims that two Western tourists, one an American and another German, were able to bribe their way out of trouble in Pattaya after being arrested in a 2022 case involving the sexual abuse of a minor, a girl under 15 years of age, at a hotel in the city. Pattaya itself is also back in the crosshairs after a scathing documentary on its red-light sex-for-sale culture broadcast by respected German DW-TV network in November.

Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, appeared disturbed by the news report about Pattaya when quizzed by journalists on Sunday in Nong Bua Lamphu province. He has asked for a report from both the Ministry of Justice and the Royal Thai Police after DW TV made broad allegations linked with sex tourism and paedophilia in Pattaya, which has angered local business operators who have questioned the accuracy of the reports.

In the heart of Thailand’s coastal paradise of Pattaya, now rocking again after becoming a ghost town during the pandemic era from 2020 to 2023, the neon glow of its famed go-go bars, seedy massage parlours, and open-air beer stalls conceals a grim reality — the resurgence of international sex tourism.

The situation is so bad that even, this week, one regular visitor to the sex strip, an expat who has lived in Pattaya for the last two decades, publicly bemoaned online what he termed the ‘extreme’ nature of today’s entertainment and the sex services offered on the buzzing streets packed with international visitors from all over the world, mostly male.

Hundreds of thousands of sex-hungry tourists arrive each month in Pattaya to party and have fun, the entertainment is later and more ‘extreme’

As the coronavirus loses its grip on global travel, hundreds of thousands of men are once again flocking to this infamous resort town every month, seeking a clandestine world of pleasure and what activist and non-governmental organisation (NGO) groups, some based there, term exploitation.

For sex tourists of all ages, Pattaya’s coastal metropolis offers a tempting escape from reality. ‘Why are we all here? Here you get more sex for less money!’ remarked one candid German tourist arrival, capturing the unabashed spirit of those descending upon the city. However, amidst the allure, a darker narrative is unfolding.

After a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, the red-light district of Pattaya has sprung back to life. The entertainment district, a haven for ‘red light vacationers,’ lay fallow during the COVID-19 lockdown, leaving approximately 60,000 sex workers in a perilous situation.

During the infamous pandemic lockdown, the darkened Pattaya nightlife area was reduced to real tumbleweeds and only patrolled by hungry street dogs

Many simply packed their bags and went back to their villages, some tried their luck in the runaway wilds of Cambodia or northern Myanmar, home to would-be gambling and whoring mecca Tachileik before the country’s civil war descended on it in recent months while other young women sought opportunities abroad in more discreet fleshpots such as Dubai.

Thousands of Thai women flocked to work in the nightlife trade in Tachileik, many at the 1G1 Hotel

The city itself was reduced to a barren wilderness with real tumbleweeds and only street dogs patrolling once heaving and throbbing nightlife centres.

Some also laid low in the city, working the streets while others attended wild private parties which helped fuel the city’s problem with illegal drug consumption.

Pattaya City is a holiday city with a bad reputation in Western countries even though it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world
Swiss man on the run abroad after underage sex ring and bar in Phuket is shut down in police raid
Drugs party raided at a private poolside venue in Pattaya as the city’s bars and venues are deserted
Thailand’s tourism industry facing a complete collapse

The sex workers were excluded from government aid programmes and schemes due to the official ban on prostitution, these workers faced especially severe economic uncertainty and vulnerability.

Hard times made sex workers wake up and demand recognition while the economic value of the ‘nightlife’ sector was seen in hard economic data

The pandemic and the desperate predicament led to them protesting outside Government House in Bangkok leaving high-heel shoes and lingerie on its railings while it was accepted that the closure of the country’s entertainment industry during the shutdown and the economic data as it fed into the system, starkly highlighted the importance of the industry to the economy. 

It was seen as a ‘catalyst’ without which the foreign tourism industry failed to achieve buoyancy.

At the same time, this led many experts and academics to advocate legalising the industry to avoid the exploitation of sex workers.

Previously, the Thai government, notably the junta government from 2014 to 2019 had sought to crack down on the sex industry with Thailand’s first female tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangku, in 2016 setting out to especially target it.

She insisted that the country did not want ‘sex tourists’ travelling to Thailand and her campaign has since been linked to a fall in Western visitors to Thailand.

Calls to legalise prostitution in Thailand after Pattaya sex raid on Walking Street this week
Record year for Thai tourism but not so good for Thailand’s bar girls and luxury hotels as the market has changed
4 am nightlife closing hours on track for Christmas or New Year’s season despite intense blowback

Since the pandemic, however, there has been a more nuanced view with the country’s nightlife attractions, with it now being viewed as essential to foreign tourism with later opening hours for the ‘nightlife entertainment’ industry agreed by the government in recent weeks.

Dark side of the industry remains in a country where corruption thrives, TV show highlights a sex worker in pursuit of the German father of her child

But the dark side of the industry remains notwithstanding a tough enforcement policy by the Royal Thai Police to stamp out any abuses relating to underage sex workers including minors trafficked into the country from outside jurisdictions such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

A poignant example is Aom, spotlighted by the German TV crew this month, a sex worker who found herself abandoned by a German client after becoming pregnant.

In a desperate bid for survival, Aom is now not only navigating the complexities of the sex trade but also wrestling with the legal system to enforce child support payments from the German national in his home country.

The documentary, a daring exploration into Pattaya’s red-light scene, uncovers layers of hypocrisy and exploitation.

Curiously, however, prostitution itself is completely legal in Germany but well regulated with many Thai women who have emigrated to the Western European nation working in it for good pay.

Some German sex tourists delude themselves into believing that their payments contribute to the survival of impoverished Thai families but the reason they visit Thailand is that the sex being sold is cheaper as is the wider entertainment and nightlife on offer. 

European film crew alleges that paedophilia is also thriving amid the bright lights and the uproariously happy nightlife scenes on Pattaya’s streets

Even tour operators, though reluctant to admit their ties to the sex trade, profit from Pattaya-linked excursions. German tour operators, proud of their commitment to combat child prostitution, raise questions about the monitoring of such claims.

The coronavirus lockdown exacerbated existing issues, laying bare the problem of abuse.

Despite local officials claiming an effective crackdown on prostitution involving minors in Pattaya’s red-light district, the DW-TV film crew stumbled upon evidence of paedophilia crimes. 

Shockingly, it has emerged that a German national implicated in child sex trafficking managed to escape the country after allegedly bribing Thai officials with over ฿ 1 million. He has been recorded and broadcast explaining how this happened and even produced clandestine smartphone-recorded clips in the sensational news report. 

However, it is being reported that this broadcast is being blocked in Thailand, a disturbing situation if confirmed.

The news has touched a spark with the public causing revulsion and consternation in Thailand this weekend.

Senior Chonburi police officer on Sunday vowed a full investigation into the serious claims that have come to light into two named Western tourists

In the aftermath, Commander of Provincial Police Region 2 which includes Pattaya and Chonburi, Police Lieutenant General Somprasong Yenthuam, has this weekend ordered an urgent investigation into the matter, acknowledging the involvement of numerous officials. 

The incident, initially exposed by Germany’s DW or international broadcaster Deutsches Chevelle on its prestigious documentary channel, has triggered a storm of online criticism.

The case, dating back to September 11, 2022, involves the arrest of two German suspects for purchasing services from girls under 15 years old. However, both managed to evade prosecution by allegedly bribing Thai officials with a substantial sum, allowing them to return to Germany and resume normal lives.

On Sunday, December 3rd 2023, Police Lieutenant General Somprasong disclosed that the investigation has expanded, focusing on the complicity of officials.

Business groups in Pattaya and the Prime Minister responded urgently to the shocking revelations suggesting the German TV report may not be accurate

On the other hand, business groups in Pattaya have fired back suggesting that the story published in the German news media may not be fair or impartial.

The broad and sweeping nature of the German TV report has angered business leaders in Pattaya as the resort city struggles to recover from a near wipeout during the pandemic.

They claim that the two accused men were released after putting up bail with one of the German accused, being a businessman who was married to a Thai woman and who maintained a residence in the kingdom.

On Sunday, PM Srettha Thavisin ordered a report from both the Ministry of Justice and the Royal Thai Police into the exposé and expressed concern that the media reports could damage the country’s vital foreign tourism industry.

Four suspects in total were arrested in the case probing the sexual abuse of minors in a 2022 Pattaya police crackdown, money trail to be looked at

In the wake of a Pattaya sex trade crackdown in 2022, four suspects were arrested on charges of human trafficking, procuring, and involvement in indecent acts with minors.

The investigation now reveals the involvement of a Mr Michael, a 49-year-old of American nationality, and Mr Jens Kirch, a 55-year-old from Germany. 

They stand accused of sexually assaulting a child under 15, they allegedly bought the victim’s services and took her to a Pattaya hotel.

As charges evolve, considerations of prosecuting money laundering offences, including the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO)’s involvement, are being pursued by police.

The latest news of the arrest of two additional suspects in the 2022 sweep by police in Pattaya linked to the rape of other children also raises disturbing questions about the scale of abuse within Pattaya’s dark underbelly.

As Thailand grapples with the resurgence of sex tourism, the shadows of Pattaya’s red-light district cast a stark reminder of the challenges that persist.

The documentary could be a powerful exposé, urging authorities to confront the deep-rooted issues of exploitation, corruption, and international cooperation failures or it could be, as Pattaya’s business leaders on Sunday suggested, another sweeping exaggeration of a decades-old trope of the city as the world’s ‘sin city’ promoted by Western tabloids.

In the face of such revelations, the world is watching Thailand, demanding accountability and an end to the exploitation of the most vulnerable in society hidden behind the neon lights of paradise.

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Further reading:

Killer of former bar girl in Pattaya claims he was attacked by the young woman with a glass shard

Calls to legalise prostitution in Thailand after Pattaya sex raid on Walking Street this week

Thailand’s sex industry crackdown sees westerners rounded up at hotel orgy in Pattaya – brothel raided

Thailand tightens screening of foreign English teachers following paedophile arrest

Aussie with Thai wife arrested in Chachoengsao on sex abuse of a minor charge in New South Wales

Australian man jailed for sexually abusing Thai children shows the depravity that authorities must tackle

It’s a hard station for Thai police and foreigners should understand better the job they do to keep order

Calls to legalise prostitution in Thailand after Pattaya sex raid on Walking Street this week