Vice Squad
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Back to Thailand

Prostitution and drugs in Thailand have been touched on by Vice Squad in the past, and Thai underground gambling has nearly made the cut. Asia Times Online now has an article by David Fullbrook with a title sure to attract the interest of Vice Squad: "Thailand: The Economics of Vice."*

The article notes that Thailand is considering legalizing gambling, perhaps by way of a referendum, even though gambling is forbidden within Buddhism. Many Thais cross the border to gamble legally in Cambodia, and the Thai government has some interest in keeping their gaming at home and taxing it. Potential Thai casinos also hope to draw wagering visitors from other countries where gambling is banned, including India and China.

Legalized gambling will probably not eliminate the underground version, which is quite extensive in Thailand. Nevertheless, one of the difficulties of legalizing gambling, noted in the article, is that the illicit earnings of the police from illicit gambling dens might tumble. The police are also heavily implicated in protecting prostitution, which, like gambling, is both illegal and extensive in Thailand. Estimates of the number of sex workers in Thailand range above 100,000. The linked Asia Times Online article notes that Buddhism (as well as feminism) presents a barrier to the legalization of prostitution, too, in Thailand.

*A pedantic note on the article's sub-title, "The Economics of Vice." Vice Squad has used similar titles himself in the past, but in general, he objects to "The Economics Of...." usage. Economics, to paraphrase Lord Keynes, is not a doctrine, but a method of analysis. There can be many (and even conflicting) economic analyses of vice, but there is no economics of vice. (I did promise pedantry, no?)

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