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A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE WORLD
 
Bar girls – ‘don’t rescue us’ says report
There are two schools of thoughts when it comes to bar girls. One says they are victims of a male-dominated society who need saving. The other says most girls enter their jobs willingly and prefer this lifestyle to one in rural Thailand.
 
Interestingly, the latter view has been given strong support by something called the * Empower Foundation. It says the lives of working girls has improved in recent years and that being ‘rescued’ actually creates more problems than it solves.
 
In a report in The Nation, Empower director Chantawipa Apisuk  (Pictured below) commented on a new report named ”Hit & Run: Sex Workers’ Research on Anti-trafficking in Thailand”, and said charities have gone ‘too far’ in enforcing anti-prostitution laws.
Empower began in 1985 to safeguard working girls’ rights. Around 20,000 girls use Empower’s contact points in 11 provinces in the North, Northeast and Central region.
 
Chantawipa said laws that try and stop people trafficking had had a serious adverse effect. The report talked to more than 200 working girls over a year, some of whom worked in Laos and Burma.
 
Those who transport people are seen by the girls as ‘helpful’ and don’t overcharge, the report claimed.
One worker, Kiaw from Laos, asked for understanding among the Thai public and authorities. “We aren’t criminals. We’re just honest people trying to build better lives,” she said.
 
Ironically, the anti-trafficking laws are seen as unhelpful by the prostitutes.
One worker, called Nok, said: “Before I was arrested I was working happily, had no debt, and was free to move around the city. Now I’m in debt, I’m scared most of the time, and it’s not safe to move around. How can they call this ‘help’?”
 
Once “rescued” and detained, foreign workers are deported while Thais have to do vocational training.
It’s an interesting theory and not one that is popular among many charities. Of course, most bar girls do come to Pattaya willingly. Once they arrive it may not quite have the lifestyle they thought they’d have, of course, but they’re not acting under duress. We imagine charities may argue that girls who are helped may have less money in the short-term, but that their long-term prospects are improved.
 
*  Note: Empower Foundation – Thailand.
Active since the onset of the epidemic in Thailand in 1984, Empower Foundation works to prevent HIV and protect the rights of sex workers. The Foundation’s activities are designed, managed, and implemented by the sex workers themselves. Through nine centers in four locations, the Foundation actively serves 50,000 sex workers. Members at the centers teach safe sex skills and provide quality information and access to condoms. Empower Foundation uses street theater, t-shirts, posters, cartoons, and an innovative public education game to fight discrimination and increase the dignity and respect with which the government, the media, non-governmental organizations and the general public treat sex workers. Through these programs, Empower Foundation and its partners strive to empower people living with HIV to play a positive role in their health and lives.
 
Where’s your top Thai beach?
Thailand takes up seven of the top ten spots in a new list of the best beaches in Asia.
It didn’t gain top spot in the list, which was compiled travel websitehttp://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Beaches Tripadvisor.com The number one beach was Boracay in the Philippines, (pictured bottom of page 70) a 4.5 km stretch of incredible beauty.
Runner-up was Ko Phi Phi Don in southern Thailand, famed for its azure water and laid-back vibe. Third spot went to another Thai beach, Koh Lanta, (pictured directly above) while fourth place went to nearby Koh Phangan.
 
Diving Mecca Koh Tao took the next place, thanks to its popularity with wannabe divers, while Kata Beach on Phuket took sixth place.
 
An Indian beach, Candolim, took seventh place, just beating the party beach of Chaweng on Koh Samui.
 
Nusa Dua, Indonesia came ninth and ending the list in 10th spot was Bophut on Koh Samui.
 
Surprisingly, in a list of the world’s best beaches, no Thai destination made it into the top 25. The best-placed Asian beach was Boracay, which was sixth.
 
As with all lists, it’s subjective stuff, and this one is based on the reviews of travellers. There are a couple of glaring omissions though, that needs mentioning. While we’re not convinced that two of Koh Samui’s beaches warrant a listing, our vote would definitely go to the idyllic Railay Beach in Krabi, southern Thailand. This secluded isthmus has great rock-climbing opportunities for the adventurous, or you can chill on its tiny but sublime sands.
 
Or if you go as far south as you can in Thailand, there is Koh Tarutao, an isolated national park-beach that has few visitors (and therefore few voters). What Thai beach would make it into your top ten?
 
No Google Street View for Pattaya
Pattaya is set to miss out on Google’s Street View service – a facility many see as an important marketing tool.
 
Google Thailand has just launched its Street View service for Bangkok. Street View lets people view panoramic views of a location from their computer, ideal for giving potential tourists a taste of what they can expect if they visit.
 
At present, the service covers nearly all Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Coming soon are Street Views for Chiang Rai, Nakhon Phanom, Hat Yai, Lamphun, Lampang, Hat Yai, Korat and World Heritage sites in Ayutthaya and Sukhothai will be featured. But not Pattaya.
 
The only other country in Southeast Asia where it’s available is Singapore.
 
It may not seem like a valuable marketing tool, but in the Italian city of Pompeii it led to a 25 per cent increase in tourism.
 
Ever the optimist, TAT reckon this could also boost tourism by a similar amount. Given that Thailand is already a major tourist centre, it doesn’t have the capacity to grow as impressively as Pompeii but nevertheless it is definitely an advantage to have Street View.
 
It’s a shame that Pattaya won’t be highlighted – could it be that TAT isn’t overly keen on letting the rest of the world see what happens in every nook and cranny of our resort? Shame, we imagine certain street views would help Google get even more hits than normal.
 
If you want to nominate a place to be highlighted on Google Street View you can visit www.tourismthailand.org/mymiracle. To use Google Street View in Thailand, access http://maps.google.co.th/streetview.
 
•   For more news and views, visit www.pattaya24seven.com