Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Et tu, Thai monks!

I first visited Bangkok, Thailand nearly 35 years ago as a transit passenger on my way to Canada to pursue my studies. I stayed in a local hotel, courtesy of the Thai Airways, for one night. After taking a shower in the hotel in the late afternoon, I thought of taking a walk outside the hotel. Hardly have I gone outside the lobby of the hotel when I was approached by a pimp trying to allure me to a massage parlor. He tried to show pictures of naked Thai girls. After brushing him away, I tried to walk outside the hotel compound. Soon a taxi cab stopped by and its driver wanted to know if I wanted to go to a massage parlor. To allure me he tried to show me pictures of nude girls. Like before, I told him that I had no interest. And this type of nuisance continued a few times during my half an hour walk outside the hotel.

At one point, frustrated and angry, I thought I had enough of my walk and decided to return to my hotel. Near the lobby there was a ball room lit with dim lights where I could see young girls, scantly dressed, serving drinks to their customers. I returned to my room.

The next time I returned to Bangkok was in the summer of 1982, again as a transit passenger from California where I was pursuing my doctoral work. The sex trade had not changed an iota there. As a tourist or transit passenger, it was a nuisance that one had to learn to avoid and say 'no' politely.

For decades, Bangkok and many of the Thai smaller cities have attracted many western perverts to settle down or travel solely for fulfilling their sexual fantasies, which included sex with young girls and boys as young as seven years old. As noted by New York Times' reporter Nicholas Kristof, Thailand used to have a great deal of forced prostitution as recently as the 1990s. These days, Thai girls in Thai brothels mostly work voluntarily and keep a share of the money they earn, while foreign girls — especially Cambodians and Burmese — are often imprisoned in the Thai brothels and aren’t paid.

In the last 35 years, I have visited many major cities in Asia, Europe and the Americas. I have never found a city which felt more like a big brothel than Bangkok. It appeared that too many people in this city were engaged in this oldest profession in one way or another.

Today I came across a newsclip in the Huffington Post which shows how far Thailand has gone in this business.  Thai police said Wednesday they had arrested two monks for procuring a 14-year-old boy to perform sexual acts with an abbot, in the latest scandal to shake the kingdom's Buddhist clergy. Based on the accounts of the victim and a driver, the two monks -- aged 20 and 23 -- are alleged to have taken the boy to see the abbot at the temple in Chiang Dao district in the Chiang Mai Province several times since February, police said.

Thailand's Buddhist clergy has been hit by a series of scandals involving monks, with local media reporting cases of drug-taking, drinking, gambling and visiting prostitutes.

I should have guessed!

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