Vice Squad
Monday, March 01, 2004
Thailand's Vice Contradictions

Thailand has been the recent scene of discussions to legalize prostitution and gambling. (That might be a contradiction in itself, as it must surprise many observers that these activities are not already legal in Thailand.) At the same time, Thailand engaged in an extremely bloody war against drugs in 2003, one that cost more than 2,500 lives. Now, the NY Times reports (from last Friday, registration required) that Bangkok nightlife is being increasingly suppressed. (Vice Squad thanks an intrepid University of Chicago student for pointing us to the Times article.) And the moves in this direction are politically popular (though it isn't unusual for policies that crimp other people's fun to be popular.) Here's an excerpt from the Times story:

"On March 1, most nightclubs, bars and discos will have their closing times moved back to midnight, one of the most stringent curfews in Asia. After March 29, under another new regulation, all youngsters under 18 will have to be off the streets by 10 p.m. unless they are with their parents.

This month the Interior Ministry announced a 100-fold increase in license fees that, if put into effect, is sure to put scores of restaurants, ballrooms, massage parlors and other entertainment places out of business.

With Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra intimidating the press; packing the courts, the police and the military; and all but eliminating political opposition, and with social order added to the mix, Thailand could begin to be a somewhat different place."

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