Sex and corruption: two very Bangkok museums

26 07 2017

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I was in Nonthaburi to visit the “This is Us” exhibition by the Empower Foundation, an organisation founded by sex workers to organise for legal protection, offer mutual support and provide education and services. The group runs its own brothel in Chiang Mai (which provides its workers with superannuation, paid leave and follows occupational health and safety protocols), a radio station and this mini-museum if the history of Thai sex work in the Bangkok suburbs.

The museum is small (and dimly lit), located on the dusty floor of a shophouse daubed with slogans like “good girls go to heaven and bad girls go everywhere!” There are some interesting panels on Thai sex work through history. One law in the early nineteenth century forbade sex workers from being called as witnesses in criminal proceedings and punished any former sex workers who married clients and were unfaithful with “working in the fields as a buffalo” – in other words they were literally, chillingly, dehumanised.

Elsewhere there are sets of hotel bed rooms and gogo bars, and discussions of AIDS advocacy issues and human trafficking. The museum costs 100 baht admission and is a great way to support a fantastic organisation.

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Further south, in Dusit, the Anti-Corruption Museum takes a similarly unflinching (if better funded – and better lit) look at one of the darker aspects of Thai society.

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