The news that two heterosexual and illegal couplings have occurred in night-time Pattaya over the past few days has shocked the unshockable city. Each involved an unknown foreigner, maybe having imbibed a beer or two, and a Thai lady cavorting at a lamp post or near a traffic bollard. If caught, the penalties vary from 500 baht to terms of imprisonment depending on which statutes or bye-laws are actually produced for prosecution. Foreigners risk deportation and blacklisting. Unknown to many, prostitution of any kind (for money or reward) has been illegal in Thailand since 1960.
Pattaya has been no stranger to bizarre sexual encounters ever since the resort became popular with American rest-and-recreation personnel fifty years ago. In 1989 a foreigner was arrested after police noticed he was lying down semi-dressed in the street with a bald woman. However, a closer inspection revealed that his companion was a dummy’s wooden model from a dress shop whose broken window and a nearby brick revealed the sordid tale. He was lucky and paid a small fine – not for alleged sexual activity but for wasting police time.
In a 2003 one-off case, an EU national tried to prosecute two ladyboys who, he claimed, had tried to rape him after luring him back to a shady flat in a disreputable neighborhood. He also claimed that a third ladyboy had been hidden under the bed and stole 3,000 baht from his wallet whilst he was otherwise engaged above. Police became suspicious after learning that he had met the transvestites in a bar specializing in encounters of the third kind. But another witness also came forward to say the foreigner had voluntarily given her the 3,000 baht earlier in the evening to complete surgery on her second breast. In a complex set of court hearings, the guy ended up being deported after medical evidence showed he had struck one contact in the face after her wig fell off.
In the last 20 years, Pattaya authorities have worked hard to clean up the city’s traditional anything-goes attitude. Sex shows have disappeared from view and bars offering underage activity have been closed. Technology police scan social media on the internet for signs of either activity. The city has diversified as whole streets have been bulldozed to make way for top-grade condominiums, plush hotels and family entertainment. Public sex offenders, who are actually newsworthy by reason of their scarcity, are less likely to be indulged. The most common saying in the city these days is, “Pattaya has changed”. Somebody should write a book.