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Since prostitution for Thai has been much less studied that sex tourism, this article propose a brief history of sex work in Thailand, from the kingdom of Ayutthaya 14 th th century to the present time. The aim is first to highlight—as all over the world—the foremost prominence of the commercial aspect, prostitution being a trading exchange of a sexual service against payment.
However, in present-day Thailand, and, at least for the last half-century, money is just like the true god ngoen khue prachao and the prospect to obtain more money tolerates any behavior and any corruption. Still to comprehend better the unusual development of prostitution in Thailand it is necessary to unveil the socio-cultural fertilizers.
One of them could be the peculiar situation of the mae may , a term inappropriately translated by widow in bilingual dictionaries, following the first lexicographers of the Thai who were all Christian missionaries. In Southeast Asia, as everywhere, prostitution should be considered a business, a trade, a deal between a woman or a man who has something she he is willing to sell and a customer who wants to buy it.
The shocking part of the transaction is that, in this case, what is bought and sold are bodies, or more exactly sexual services. In fact, the most important aspect of prostitution—in France, in Brazil, or in Thailand—is money, usually cash money. This is indeed the first element to keep in mind: How did prostitution come to Thai society?
Why do women choose to work as prostitutes when they could have found alternative work? Who are their customers? What are the official and local academic positions and discourses on prostitution? How large is the role of prostitution in the national economy? What is the actual influence of the West? And, of course, what the cultural obstacles and inducements that could at least partially explain the huge number of prostitutes in this country.