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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Bangkok round-up: Dancing Under the Death star

7 03 2016

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Thailand’s Khao Sod newspaper reported this week on a deathly grip tightening around Thailand as Uranus, considered by Thai astrologers to be a harbinger of ill portent, neared the end of its long, elliptical journey around the sun.

When this last took place (one orbit takes 84 years,) it coincided with (or caused?) the revolt that overthrew the absolute monarchy…although looking at it another way, it oversaw the birth of democracy in Thailand – such as it is… 😉

Temples around the country held special prayer meetings to combat the dark influence of the planet known in Thai as Dao maruet ta yoo, “the star of death”.

It was not all doom and gloom though: revellers danced the night away at a swing and jazz dance festival in the shadow of the famous temple of nearby Nakhon Pathom, as captured in a charming photo essay by Coconuts Bangkok.

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And finally, BK magazine reports on another interesting museum to add to the list of Bangkok sights (together with the new “Museum of Thai Corruption“). This one is a museum collated by sex workers to document their lives and struggles, poignantly titled “This is Us.” The museum was put together by the Empower Foundation, a pro-sex work group dedicated to campaigning for better rights and conditions, and societal acceptance, of sex work. Interestingly, the article points out the price of sex in Thailand – a sum equivalent to ten bags of rice – has not increased in four hundred years!