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Bangkok is a big city with 5 red light districts. While go go bars are prime areas to find Thai hookers, the real fact is that there are many types of working girls in Bangkok.


The air pulses with sound and heat. Bass thumps from deep within each bar and neon s announce cheap beer, massages, and friendly girls. Caucasian men stroll hand-in-hand with Thai women half their age.

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Bar employees line the sidewalk, some waving to customers, some labeled with s, all of them wearing platform heels and little else. Bad guys go to Pattaya.

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This strip of clubs and brothels is called Walking Street. It is the prostitution hub of a city infamous for sex trafficking and exploitation. Pattaya, Thailand is known informally as the sex tourism capital of the world.

Into the darkness

Here on Walking Street, everything is for sale: drugs, women, men, and. A forced festivity hangs over the scene like a veil. In the shadows, young women eat dinner from Styrofoam containers or check their phones before turning to face the street. A girl no older than twelve performs contortions for money, bending slowly backward until her face looks through her legs with vacant eyes. Underneath the lights and music, the smell of sewage lingers.

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Thailand evokes images of ornate temples and elephant sanctuaries and of beaches with warm water the color of sky. No one talks about Pattaya. Yet the city is a magnet.

Prostitution in thailand

Girls—many in their early teens—move to Pattaya from across Thailand to find work, and men travel from across the world for their services. Sex tourism in Thailand has such entrenched and tangled roots that it is hard to know where to begin unknotting them. The rise of prostitution can be traced to the Vietnam War, though it existed long before then. Today, girls turn to bars and brothels out of financial desperation or after being sold—often by their own family members.

The overwhelming majority of girls who work in these bar-and-brothels come from poor, rural villages. Because Thai culture places the burden of caring for parents on females, girls as young as fourteen are forced to seek work.

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With no opportunity in their communities and little education, they travel to Pattaya to work in bars. The story is equally complicated on the other end.

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Men who pay for sex with women and Thailand prostitution street have often endured their own sexual abuse or trauma, and there is no neat line to draw between victim and perpetrator. Pornography presents another root problem as its supply increases the demand for prostitution. Four years ago, Jeremy and Jenifer Kraus moved to Thailand on faith and little else. Their life in Orange County, California, had taken a few devastating turns and they believed God was calling them to begin something new.

They felt an inexplicable tug toward Thailand and decided to travel the country for several months. Of all the places they visited, Jen and Jeremy decided to settle in Pattaya. The organization partners with Thai detectives, police, and social workers to rescue kids and rehabilitate them in a loving home environment.

In Thailand, children rescued from brothels or other forms of abuse are often put in government shelters. Thrive seeks to move beyond rescue and into restoration.

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Each Thrive safe home is small enough for staff to give the girls and boys individualized attention. InThrive launched an initiative called Shear Love International, a vocational program for women who have left the sex industry. While Thrive Rescue Homes provide aftercare for children, Shear Love teaches employable skills to adult survivors. Students in the program receive intensive training in hairstyling and graduate with new opportunities for dignified work.

We are in the Shear Love classroom waiting for her students to arrive. Inside they begin curling and styling the hair of mannequins. Dianna instructs as they work, correcting and complimenting their techniques. Dianna is a hairstylist from Southern California.

For years she split her time between a salon in the states and traveling abroad to teach vulnerable women how to cut hair. She realized that learning an employable skill was the quickest and most sustainable way for women to leave prostitution behind.

In the spring ofshe sold everything she owned and moved permanently to Pattaya to work with Thrive Rescue. She now directs Shear Love and spends her days teaching and caring for women who were exploited and equipping them to build a more hopeful future. Ultimately, Shear Love is not about learning to cut hair. Dianna wants to teach former prostitutes that they are worthy, loved, and redeemed. The program offers women the support they need to move toward healing. The students we meet in class brim with excitement over their work. They are vibrant, warm, and eager to learn.

In a city few choose to go, the team has built their lives alongside the very people they are working to set free. This kind of radical move requires humility and solidarity.

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Thrive lives out this truth intimately. A core part of their aftercare strategy is to create a family. We challenge them and we love them and we treat them like leaders. They heal in a loving home and receive therapy, education, and medical care.

Staff members share their lives with the kids, driving them to school, eating dinner with them, and taking them to doctor appointments. Shear Love functions the same way. Although the women in the program live independently, their friendships with each other and with Dianna touch the depths of sisterhood.

Together the girls are learning to dream of a beautiful life for themselves. One night we are out to dinner with Dianna and a few Shear Love students. When she mentions her hometown in California, a student asks when she plans on going back.

This is my home now.

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Being an orphan was stuck in my heart. In her eyes, creating a family for the boys and girls is the most effective form of rehabilitation. We hope that when kids come to [Thrive], they feel like they are home.

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Several nights after our visit to Walking Street, Dianna takes us to Soi 6. This street holds roughly ninety bar-and-brothels with twenty girls working in each. On this single strip of downtown Pattaya, approximately 1, girls and ladyboys transgender women sell themselves.

The night on Soi 6 puts a face and a name to the problem of prostitution like no amount of research ever could.

We end up at a bar with pink lights and mirrors covering the walls. Over the next few hours we learn makeup tips from a ladyboy named Sara and talk with a girl named Mai about her family. We eat crickets together and dance and take turns choosing songs. The lesson here? Many have written off Pattaya as a lost cause, but goodness is everywhere in the city. Jenifer, Jeremy, Prae, and Dianna know this. Their work consists largely in helping women and children see, and then own, their inherent goodness and worth. Against all odds the city is a hopeful place.

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Hope exists on Soi 6 in the gentleness, graciousness, and generosity of the girls we met. It is in the friendships and persistent innocence of the Shear Love students. But when you look at Christ you know how great he is and how much he can do for you and for the world. He loves you just as you are.

Walking street, pattaya

We just do our part. Trafficking in their life has ended. So for that one person human trafficking can be stopped. But those six lives are everything—because what if it was you? Of course, the road to restoration is a long one and healing is not a one-time event.

And we need people who are willing to walk the journey with us. These partners make up the larger Thrive family, a family who believes every life is worth the fight for freedom.

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Prostitution is illegal in Thailand and still there are estimated , sex workers, if you include all the freelancers and sideline girls it gets close to a million.


A raid on a prostitution establishment in Pattaya on Monday has lead to the removal of a Pattaya police chief and four senior officers in the force.


In , on a visit to Thailand, I found myself riding one night in a Tuk-Tuk with two other Western tourists on our way to Bangla Walking Street, the downtown area in Phuket.


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