The Bangkok-based Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights estimates there are 800,000 child prostitutes—perhaps ten percent of them boys—in Thailand.

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One of a number of groups that works with prostitutes, FOW won an important victory recently when a Thai court ordered a brothel owner to pay damages to the parent of a prostitute (see related story).

“People always focus on the women,” Niramon continued.

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Tourism is the biggest foreign exchange earner in Thailand, one that brought in some $1.5 billion in foreign currency in 1986.

The ratio of male tourists to female tourists in Thailand is 2:1, according to a report by the International Labour Office entitled “From Peasant Girls to Bangkok Masseuses”.

Sobbing, the mother insisted to Ekachai, “I didn’t sell her. There, in bars with names like Pussy Galore and Paradise, they sit in glass cages, numbers pinned to their see-through blouses.

The tourists—often Japanese, but Australian, Jordanian and American also—pick a number and then take them to a small cubicle upstairs.

Given the increasing difficulties in making a living in rural areas and their general lack of education and skills, rural women turn to prostitution, or are pressured into it by families, as a way of sustaining their families.

In the Northeast, where many ethnic minorities, gangs of Thai and Burmese criminals kidnap women and sell them directly to brothels. But I didn’t want her to have to work too long to pay off the debt.

Investigative journalist Sanitsuda Ekachai interviewed the mother of one 15-year-old girl who was recruited by the wife of a brothel owner. Knowing their parents cannot afford to pay back the debt, and often brutalized into silence, few dare to speak out.