BANGKOK: For Anna, the Walking Street of Pattaya is more than just a famous red-light district. It was her workplace for the past 12 years.
It was here, among the rows of nightclubs, bars and massage parlours, that she and other sex workers welcomed tourists from around the world. Many people have built their lives here and others came to seek a better future.
Today, the Walking Street of Pattaya City in coastal Chonburi is no longer a place of entertainment and opportunities. Night entertainment venues that had provided jobs for many sex workers are shut. There are no bright neon lights at night and no pumping music. Tourists have vanished since last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Thailand.
“It’s so depressing,” said Anna, who is known along the Walking Street by her moniker.
“Nowadays, by 6 pm, Pattaya looks like an abandoned city. There is hardly any sign of life on the Walking Street. This makes me want to cry. This place used to generate income and build the future for so many people.”
Anna is among the hundreds of thousands of sex workers in Thailand believed to have lost their main source of income to the health crisis.
According to SWING, a local foundation that works closely with people in the industry to promote their rights and well-being, the pandemic has seriously impacted sex workers.
Many of them worked at night entertainment venues. However, the government has ordered the venues to close several times since last year, believing that they could potentially spread infections.
“Hundreds of thousands of people working as sex workers to support themselves and their families suddenly became jobless. They haven’t been taken care of by the state or received any relief money for more than a year now,” said Surang Janyam, director of SWING.
“It’s hard to imagine how they can survive without any income, given that most of them live on daily earnings.”