It was a Wednesday night in downtown Bangkok, we left our hotel in Sukhumvit and headed for Thailand’s red light district. We had never been to Bangkok and were curious about the live Go-Go shows, underworld sexual exploitation and city life.
We had spent our first few days exploring the cultural sights: the Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw, the Floating markets and Wat Pho; and a few upmarket bars and restaurants which were filled with mostly expats and tourists.
Tonight we wanted to explore the city! The Taxi driver dropped us off in Patpong, the district of Bangkok renowned for its Lady Boy’s, Bar Girls and Go Go shows. After a few hours we followed in the footsteps of so many thousands of Western tourists before us, drinking, dancing and pigging out on thai street food.
Uni exams were over, we were on holidays, letting go and catching up after not seeing each other for a while – we were exactly where we wanted to be, embracing the city for all that it had to offer and enjoying each others company. Yet we couldn’t ignore the cold harsh reality, the exploitation, desperation, teenagers fighting the city, fighting hard to climb out of poverty and provide incomes for their families at what ever cost. I secretly wished i was an undercover interpol agent or that this was all just a bad dream.
We entered the Pink Panther Club – a club for male prostitutes, not to buy or rent a boy rather to investigate like journalists, we sat on the lounge, like wall flowers drinking singha beer, watching. We watched elderly western men with giant pot bellies buying teenage boys.
The club owner came over and invited me to dance on the stage with the boys. My moment of hesitation was broken by the DJ’s rhythm – before i knew it i was on the stage dancing with 15 athletic Thai boys aged between 18 and 28 years old. All the boys were clad in nothing but an A4 sized paper card with their numbers in red clipped to their tiny white satin hot pants.
Most of the boys on stage bopped robotically like automations with their minds somewhere else. Ironically dancing in a so called “Go Go bar” when all the boys on the stage seemed to want to do was “Go Go” somewhere else far from the neon disco lights and house music inside the Club. Thats when my eyes connected with GOLF and that cheeky smile of his! i danced with GOLF like he was a cousin and this was a family birthday party – it was not sexual at all.
GOLF was only 19 years old. My girlfriend and i purchased GOLF for the night as a TOUR GUIDE ONLY – same bar release fee to the club $40 regardless of what the encounter involved – only forty Australian dollars for the entire night! wtf! I felt like i had rescued GOLF for the night. I was not supporting the sex industry so much as giving GOLF the freedom to do what he wanted that night once released from the bar. A night off from work with extra cash, free alcohol and free to leave at any time. We explained to GOLF we only wanted a tour guide to show us where to buy good street food and find the best local bars or clubs.
We were drinking at one bar where locals and expats came together when none other then the ‘Bangkok Boy’ – Chai Pinit came in with his entourage and joined us. Golf and Chai Pinit were associates so we all chilled out, played pool and shot back a few more cocktails. Chai Pinit is a true urban warrior in every sense of the word. You can buy his story ‘Bangkok Boy’ online at Amazon.com, the Bookdespository.com or kindle.
Chai Pinit the eldest son of a respected Thai Khmer family from the Sisaket Province of the Northeast region of Thailand. Growing up Chai, according to the standards of rural Thailand, was “quite well off”(p.17). Chai was given material comforts and luxuries that many in his village would have only ever dreamed of owning, such as a quad bike which he rode to school past his friends who were forced to walk. Chai explains how his father was a retired boxer who owned the village grocery store and his mother an influential spiritualist in high demand with the local Thai’s.
Chai’s story titled: “Bangkok Boy, The story of a stolen childhood” would by Chai’s account seem an inaccurate sales pitch by the publishing house as Chai states: “My Childhood was blissfully innocent” (p.21). Although i tend to disagree with Chai, While Chai’s childhood was not stolen as are many childhoods of poor rural Thai’s who are thrust into the sex slave trade out of economic necessity, sold by families or stolen by traffickers. Chai was manipulated and sexually abused as a child during puberty.
Chai’s childhood characterised by material comfort and the loving, supportive environment provided by his parents was accelerated rapidly into an adulthood marked by sexual abuse, violence, alcoholism, and the world of Go-Go bars.
When Chai was only 15 years old he was sexually abused by a trusted teacher who performed fellatio on him. Chai while identifying as a heterosexual man was experimental and open to sexual gratification from another male although could only climax by closing his eyes and fantasising about an attractive female teacher performing the act instead of his effeminate male teacher. When given a mere 100 Baht ($3.84 AUD) by his molester Chai’s destiny was set for a decade of sexual objectification and commodification of self.
In later accounts Chai discusses how he rationalised that it was not molestation rather consensual “business transactions” (p.28). Chai clearly recounts how willingly he transformed himself and commodified his body for material gain:
“I therefore came to see my body as an asset – something to be capitalised on, and did whatever I thought necessary to make it more attractive. I bought expensive clothing and accessories and only drank and smoked high-priced brands to further enhance my image. For a while i exercised regularly and ate health food to boost my stamina” (p.105).
Chai’s was a product of his environment and economy. Chai explains how when he first moved to Bangkok he was forced to share a room with his sister and with no skills or qualifications he found looking for work difficult. Chai’s first job in Bangkok was a “bagger” at an expensive clothing store where he “stuffed” customer merchandise into bags for 3000 Baht a month ($38.40 AUD). Chai reveals after he paid for basic necessities such as; Rent, food, transportation, and clothing that he:
“Hadn’t two baht to rub together at the end of the month” (p.91).
The harsh reality for many uneducated workers trying to make a living in Thailand is that they are frequently only surviving month to month, with no money left over to send back to their families or to fund education for their children. Chai didn’t want to “slave away” like the labourers from his village earning a pittance or 200 Baht a day ($7.69 AUD) working in factories when he could earn a weeks wages in one day or with one encounter! At 23, Chai became a Go-Go boy in the Soi Twilight district of Bangkok and quickly learned how to exploit his body and manipulate his clients for maximum material gain.
Chai’s story of sexual exploitation (by self, the economic marketplace and individuals deluded in the belief that sex in the sex industry is “consensual” once a monetary fee is given for the exchange) is interwoven with incidences of brutal violence and conflict. Chai is betrayed, beaten and left for dead by an old associate who Chai once lent money.
Chai’s life in the city tells of brutality, interpersonal discord, betrayal, and the wickedness of human nature. Chai himself was no angel and honestly admits to being the perpetrator of domestic violence and describes physically assaulting his romantic lovers. Although Chai does not readily admit to the grievous psychological abuse and gas lighting during his relationships where he frequently deflected blame onto his partners for his own behavioural shortcomings.
Chai readily assumed his self identity as the elder son of a traditional thai family, an identity that placed him at a the highest level in Thai culture, at the top of his families hierarchy, a place to be worshipped and respected which gave him a sense of self-righteousness and arrogance, Chai states:
“I developed a very self-centred outlook that made me very proud and arrogant”. (p.21).
Reading Chai’s story, after being a victim of domestic violence, i quickly identified Chai’s inability to accept responsibility for his violent outbursts and tendency to blame his victims aka gas lighting. As i read about Chai’s less then desirable character flaws i questioned whether he would be a worthy subject and role model for my Urban Life Warriors narratives.
But i realised above and beyond everything, wrong turns, paths crossed and shit hitting the fan – Chai Survived! and not only survived he developed into a mature minded responsible father who lives for his son and i believe is a good role model. A man who has evolved, mellowed with age and with the ability to teach his son how to live a meaningful and virtuous life and to learn from his mistakes, short comings and strengths. A true Urban Warrior – Chai is now a city tour guide and has retired from the Go-Go bar scene.
(stay tuned for a more in-depth stories about Urban Warriors in the Bangkok city-scape. I will also go into the darker backstory where-ever possible, such as sex trafficking and forced bondage. For tonight i will leave this entry short & bitter-sweet)
Chai Pinit – ‘Bangkok Boy’, Supermarket on Patpong Road, Bangkok.
Pinit, C. (2008) Bangkok Boy: The story of a stolen childhood (Dunboyne: Maverick House Publishers).
An interesting and sad story.There are so many sad stories in this world. Chai’s story is one of them.
Where is he now? Where will he be in few years once he is not young anymore?
What can I do to make the world a better place when my problems, work, lack of time, my desire to enjoy life as quick and as much as possible, and my selfishness, keep controlling my actions?
Wow such a thoughtful reflection Michael. It sounds as though you related to Chai’s “Selfishness” which frequently dictated his actions. I find your response interesting as though you are expressing your own personal frustrations and discontent about not being able to reach out to people like Chai, or to make a difference in peoples lives, because you have your own life problems and priorities. I think it is healthy to have some degree of self interest or a healthy dose of selfishness – although i believe this needs to be balanced with altruism and giving back to the community. Although it is wise to honestly appraise your own life problems and admit that you first have to deal with your own problems before you can be of value to someone else.
Yes Chai’s story is sad, as it is all too common. While Chai was not your stereotypical “poor rural Thai boy” his adolescence and adulthood soon converged with and went down the same path as those less fortunate from his childhood village. A path dictated by a marketplace which forces people experiencing extreme poverty who are fighting to survive into the seedy underbelly of the city streets. Ironically people trying to escape the indignity of poverty,debts and unfulfilled family obligations – people who simply want to get ahead in life – end up working in a role as ‘second class citizens’ shunned, discriminated against and losing face – which defeats their initial intention. Like shooting yourself in the foot!
In addition we have to remember that Prostitution has not been decriminalised in Thailand. In the constitution of Thailand, Penal Code Ammendment Act (No.17) B.E. 2547 (2003), it is stated: “Any person, being over sixteen years of age, subsists on the earning of a prostitute, even if it is some part of her income, shall be punished with imprisonment of seven to twenty years and fined of fourteen thousand to forty thousand Baht, or imprisonment for life.”
Thank you for sharing!
Please join up and comment whenever something rouses your interest! Maybe you have an Urban Warrior Narrative you may consider sharing?
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