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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat
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    Sex Workers in Chiang Mai



    Pilai Srikumsaw is fluent in the Northern dialect as well as Thai. She can converse in English comfortably. And she has just begun to learn Dutch. With her job as a sex worker, it isn't just fluency that counts. Sometimes that's even secondary to the art of good conversation.
    Warm, chatty and animated, Pilai likes to number her explanations, which were hardly revealed with bullet-point succinctness, but always with a genuine intent to share with her listener.
    "Not everyone can work in this business. For one, you have to have good conversation skills. You have to be able to talk about anything. For example, if you see a vase on the table, you have to know how to turn it into a topic of conversation. This business isn't just about going out to have sex with customers. Before getting to the sex part, you have to know how to talk first. You have to strike up a conversation. You don't just sit there," she said.
    And sex becomes part of her job description only if she chooses. Pilai began as a cashier in a bar in Chiang Mai, where she now entertains customers, which consist mostly of foreign tourists. Sometimes she continues her job outside of the bar, taking her customers sightseeing, shopping, dining and dancing.
    "In terms of sex, that's the last step. Sometimes when you go out with a customer, it's not about sex. Sometimes we just eat, dance and talk with them. Not every customer wants or expects sex. Sometimes I turn them down. I have to get to know them first. Before we talk about having sex, we usually talk about other things first. And I have to see whether he's nice or whether we get along well or not."
    Previously, Pilai worked as a chef at a hotel in Chiang Mai. When she needed the money to pay off her car, she quit the kitchen and got a job at a factory as it offered overtime payments as well as more flexibility to find money elsewhere. Five years ago, she started her own flower business on her family's property. Being the single wholesaler of tuberose in Chiang Mai today, her business has expanded from one hectare of land to five.
    Pilai's decision to become a cashier in a bar was sparked by her desire to learn English. She saw that an old friend of hers, who, with a Dutch husband and without a high school diploma, could speak English and Dutch. Why couldn't she, too?
    "My friend isn't as educated as I am. I finished high school, but I didn't know how to speak English very well. So I decided to become a cashier in a bar. If you want to meet certain kinds of people, then you have to go to a place where there are a lot of them - my friend knows how to speak all these languages and I wondered whether I could do it, too. It was like another challenge for me."
    Pilai's attitude towards sex workers before and after her entry into the business hasn't changed. She has kept her nocturnal job secret from no one - not from potential boyfriends and not from her parents, who have accepted it and told her to be careful.
    "I used to work in a hotel so I understand this kind of job. Waitresses also go out with tourists. They used to tell me about accompanying these foreigners on trips to waterfalls, to Phuket, flying to all these destinations, staying in hotels. Basically, I've been around these women since I've started working. I just wasn't doing it myself. I even regret not choosing to be a waitress. I thought I shouldn't have become an assistant to the chef in the first place.
    "I don't care about what other people say about my work. I don't want their words to dampen my confidence. This is what I want to do. I choose to do it. So I have to do the best I can."
    A week into her job at the bar, she was introduced to Empower Foundation, or Moolniti Songserm Okard Pooying (Foundation of Promotion of Opportunity for Women), by a foundation volunteer. Pilai began taking language courses there and today she has become a field staff member, doing outreach twice a week in entertainment venues around Chiang Mai.
    Empower Foundation, which recently received an award from the National Human Rights Commission for its work with women sex workers, was founded in 1985 under the name Soon Pitak Siti Ying Borikarn (Centre for Protection of Rights of Women in the Entertainment Sector). However, deemed by the Office of the National Cultural Commission as "inappropriate", the centre was forced to change its name to the current name in order to register.
    Apart from language courses taught by volunteers and offered depending on the languages the sex workers need to learn, Empower Foundation also provides Non-Formal Education, a programme which, according to Pilai, has seen a number of sex workers go on to become nurses and lawyers, among other careers. Further, the foundation serves as a centre for sex workers to share their experiences and help each other in their careers.
    "There are workshops where sex workers can exchange and share their experiences with one another. How do you talk to a drunkard? How do you deal with men who have violent sexual habits? Everyone comes with their own ideas. So you come out equipped with strategies for different situations," Pilai said.
    Empower Foundation is based in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The 2,000-plus venues in Chiang Mai are divided into 14 zones. As a field staff member, Pilai keeps track of new and recently closed-down venues, distributes condoms, talks to employers and employees about police harassment, and catches up with fellow sex workers.
    "My job and hometown become an added advantage when I do outreach in these venues. I'm a native of Chiang Mai and I work with women in Chiang Mai. I speak the Northern dialect, so a lot of women trust me. Trust should come first with this kind of work. When I share my stories with them, I don't get shy or embarrassed. And I don't lie. If I don't know something, I don't pretend to know it. These women are not stupid. They can tell who's lying or not. I always encourage people to make their own decisions.
    "I even teach my customers bar etiquette and manners. I tell a lot of them about Empower because when they go to other bars, they may spread the word about the foundation to other sex workers. And those women may get an opportunity to get some education or learn a new language."
    The night scene in Chiang Mai is home not only to Thai sex workers, but also hill tribe and migrant workers from Laos, Burma and China, who are often more vulnerable to unfair wages and abuse from their employers than Thai or hill tribe women.
    "In workshops at Empower, I always try to tell the migrant workers to demand the standard wage. We try to empower them, but we never encourage them to quit their jobs and go work somewhere else. We don't want to create any riff with the owners of those bars because we need to protect our friends as well. We're just there to let our friends know their rights. It needs to come from the mouths of the workers themselves. It's not our job to come between them and their employers."
    Pilai has learned to ignore society's judgemental glare, but what she fights against today, along with her friends at Empower Foundation, are the laws that exclude sex workers from the rights enjoyed by people of other occupations. Regarded by the law as a "special occupation", the workers in the sex industry are not protected under labour laws. These businesses are constantly subjected to police harassment in the name of the law as they are viewed as hotbeds of vices. Further, the entertainment venues have unhealthy and unsafe working environments, something Pilai attributes to negligence on the part of employers and the Ministry of Labour.
    Pilai and 11 other sex workers from Empower Foundation decided they were not going to wait for the laws or anyone else to improve their working conditions. Three months ago, the first bar in Thailand to be owned and run by sex workers opened in Chiang Mai under the name of Can Do Bar.
    "We put our money together to open the bar. It's a bar that meets all the health and safety standards specified by the labour laws in any workplace. Can Do Bar has fire equipment, a front door and a back door. There is a separate karaoke area, a go-go dancing area, lounge area, smoking and non-smoking areas. We have all the things that other places we've worked for lack. Everything that should be there is there - everything that creates a safer working environment."
    In the bars that these women have worked for, pay is often below minimum wage. They get two days off a month, often working more than eight hours a night without overtime payments. Salary cuts are imposed when workers are late or take leaves that last longer than two days. It's a different story at Can Do Bar.
    "Everyone works eight hours a night with a one-hour break, during which they can do anything they want. They get one day off a week and are paid during holidays. Minimum wage in Chiang Mai is 155 baht an hour, but we pay our employees 180 baht an hour because we consider these women professionals. They don't need any training. So we give them the rate we would give workers with experience. We also give social insurance to our workers as well as other benefits.
    "I didn't understand why these bars don't register their workers. I thought it was because there was a lot of paperwork and red tape. But since I've opened this bar and I was the person running around getting the insurance done for the staff, I've found that it's all so easy to do and they don't even ask me any questions. We've given insurances to 30 workers and they don't even ask why we have so many employees."
    The owners established this bar in the hopes that other entertainment venues will follow in their footsteps. On the second floor of the bar, there is a history room that holds an exhibition on Empower Foundation, to serve as a remembrance of how they got where they are today.
    "Can Do Bar is a model bar for other bars. If the employees are happy, the employers are happy. When the employers are happy, the business goes well. You can't just keep taking advantage of your employees. It just shouldn't be done any more. The age of slavery is over. This is so that society can see that sex workers are not stupid people. We can be business owners. We are able to start up and run businesses."
    Another project Pilai and her friends at Empower Foundation are working on is fighting to get their voices heard by the government. The foundation has been pushing for a bigger role in the drafting of the new constitution, proposing improvement in the welfare of workers in the service sector.
    "With every government, the request was passed on from one ministry to the next. Nobody ever wanted to take the responsibility," Pilai said. Pilai plans to get married next year to her Dutch boyfriend. She wants to have a family. She wants to have her own children. The 36-year-old said she's not going to be in this business for the rest of her life. But now that she's still in it, she's taking the responsibility for her career to a whole new level.

    Setting up a bar that accords labour rights to sex workers is not the only thing Pilai Srikumsaw and her friends are doing. They want the new government charter to listen to the voice of sex workers and respect their rights

    STORY BY AMITHA AMRANAND, PHOTO BY YINGYONG UN-ANONGRAK
    bangkok post

  2. #2
    Have you got any cheese Thetyim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydog
    has seen a number of sex workers go on to become lawyers
    I love that bit.
    They both screw you for money

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat
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    ^SHHHHH's william might see your post

  4. #4
    Fag an bealac!
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    a man was lying with his bar girl in chiang mai after having sex, as they lay there she began gently stroking his penis. The man said do you want some more sex? she replied no I am just admiring your cock, I really miss mine.

  5. #5
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    Where is "Can do bar"?

  6. #6
    Northern Hermit
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    ^If you don;t know about it I doubt they really exist...

  7. #7
    Thailand Expat
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    ^Well i do now!

    I have to have a look...
    Last edited by Little Chuchok; 21-12-2006 at 09:08 PM.

  8. #8
    Have you got any cheese Thetyim's Avatar
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    The Can Do bar is in Chiang Mai Land


    Here is a piccy of the bar




  9. #9
    Thailand Expat
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    ^Right then,I'm off there tomorrow!

    BTW,there are a few farang birds in the photo...

  10. #10
    I am in Jail
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    It's not all hoes an' expats, you know.

  11. #11
    Have you got any cheese Thetyim's Avatar
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    That picture was taken on the opening night party so probably was full of Empower workers.

  12. #12
    I am in Jail
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    I'm always glad when I have an opportunity to empower working girls, being an appreciating customer.

  13. #13
    punk douche bag
    ChiangMai noon's Avatar
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    anyway, lady hawks bloke has a stag night next month and he is a total woosie pussy.
    anyone that can get him shagged will get a free beer from me, i might even make it two.

  14. #14
    Have you got any cheese Thetyim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stroller
    being an appreciating customer
    Your lucky.
    I just get poorer and poorer each day

  15. #15
    Thailand Expat
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    ^^Make that a free crate of JW Blue, and i'll try and get him shagged.

  16. #16
    Have you got any cheese Thetyim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiangMai noon
    anyone that can shag him will get a free beer from me,
    Ask Butterfly

  17. #17
    punk douche bag
    ChiangMai noon's Avatar
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    ^^
    ok, you ovenless stingy, crap christmas dinner in an atmosphereless pub bastard.

  18. #18
    Thailand Expat
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    I got an oven mate.


  19. #19
    punk douche bag
    ChiangMai noon's Avatar
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    oh.

  20. #20
    Thailand Expat
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    ^it's only a little'un.

  21. #21
    I am in Jail
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thetyim View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by stroller
    being an appreciating customer
    Your lucky.
    I just get poorer and poorer each day
    I didn't say I pay well, nor that I indulge often.

  22. #22
    Thailand Expat
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    Quote Originally Posted by stroller View Post
    It's not all hoes an' expats, you know.

    According to the Western press that's Thailand in a nutshell (oh, and child prostitution)

  23. #23
    Thailand Expat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Chuchok View Post
    ^it's only a little'un.
    Never mind, they say its not the size, its what you do with it.

    BULLSHIT

  24. #24
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    so did you find the bar? whats it like? empower anyone? did u meet Pilai Srikumsaw? is she charging higher rates now she is famous?

  25. #25
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    You old gits dont sleep much do you

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