Nightlife Workers Ask for Financial Support of Government

Nightlife workers, including bar staff and sex workers, gathered outside the Government House on Tuesday morning, asking authorities for monthly cash handouts to cover their expenses as the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions forced their work venues to close.

People wearing symbolic high heels and bikinis arrived around 9:00 a.m. yesterday, asking the government for monthly stipends per person.

The media reported that approximately 20 protesters laid their distinctive high heels on the ground while others tied panties to the front gate of the building. They stated they represented all nightlife workers, including musicians, bartenders, and waiters.

Their representatives said that bars, karaoke shops, and massage parlors had been closed since early 2020.

Moreover, they claimed that the government had ignored their requests for financial assistance although their workplaces had been closed for more than a year. At Tuesday’s protest, attendees asked the government to hand out 5,000 baht a month for each worker until the nightlife venues reopen.

The workers said they were taxpayers, meaning they had the right to get financial assistance.

Later on Tuesday, protesters delivered a letter to Prime Minister Prayut-cha-o-cha through Sompat Nilapan, advisor to the office of the permanent secretary of the prime minister’s office. Sirisak Chaited, an LGBT + activist who gained popularity with a gender-inclusive monasticism campaign, said the Thai government should treat sex workers as those with another profession.

Sirisak said that sex workers deserve financial compensation in times of crisis as Thailand’s sex trade attracts foreign tourists and contributes positively to the country’s income.

“We’re Thai people and we generate income for the country. Please accept the reality that prostitution exists and it does have value and dignity just like other profession,” Sirisak said. Another protester, who identified herself as Yada, added: “We work with our bodies, just like many other people out there… But the government doesn’t even see us as human.”

However, current Thai law punishes prostitution with a 40,000 baht fine and up to two years in prison.

Also, moving their business to online platforms didn’t work out for them either, as they risk being tracked or arrested if they offer sexual services on the internet, Sirisak explained. Massage parlors, bars, and other entertainment venues have been forced to close their doors since the third wave of cases hit Bangkok and surrounding areas in April.

This week, authorities in the capital announced new restrictions, showing no signs that nightlife venues would be allowed to resume operations anytime soon.

Security forces briefly interrupted yesterday’s protest, asking people to remove “inappropriate” clothing.

But a sex worker told a police officer: “These are our working clothes. There are more urgent things that are inappropriate and need to be fixed.”