Crackdowns on nightlife in Pattaya are a regular occurrence. They may happen regularly, but not very frequently. The recent crackdown in some way feels more severe, or at least like it is the beginning of something more dramatic. What is really behind the recent crackdown and it is a harbinger of things to come in Pattaya?
For years people have been prophesying about the end of nightlife in Pattaya as we know it. That Walking Street and Soi 6 would be bulldozed to make room for new hotels and a ‘new type’ of tourist. I theorize this might be the real deal this time. That current events may have finally given the government and powers that be the cover they need to enact their wishes, and this crackdown is the beginning of the final push to the redevelopment of Pattaya.
Recent Media Coverage and Outside Interference
I can’t help but think that the recent coverage in the Western media had a big part to do with the current crackdown. The whole “Pattaya is the sex capital of the world” barrage of articles shined a spotlight on Pattaya that was brighter than usual. Combine that with the fact Thailand trying to get their name off of the United States human trafficking blacklist and you have a recipe for increased pressure to ‘clean up’ the town.
Of course, human trafficking and prostitution are not the same things, even though people and groups try to link them together. Linking the two gets the headlines, money, and the Moral Right involved. It’s the story that sells. It’s also the story that puts Western pressure on other countries to change their ways to meet the religious morals of the Christian West.
A story of fisherman working as slaves doesn’t bring the same indignation from the West.
Social Media and the Internet
A short ten years ago the only thing you could find on the internet was a few forums where like-minded travelers would gather to share stories and tips on Pattaya in relative privacy. Nowadays, the forums are still there, but they are bigger and driven by profit. They advertise. They run ads in search engines and the side of baht buses.
People are posting about their exploits on blogs, Facebook, and Instagram. Do a search on the web and images of scantily clad ladies and links to forums and blogs talking about sex. If it is that easy for you to find, it is that easy for someone with a problem with it to find it as well.
Pattaya used to be a destination that like Vegas, what happened there stayed there. Not anymore. When things are this out in the open people are going to take aim if they don’t agree with it.
The Desire To Make Pattaya Family Friendly
I’m sure there is a large group in polite Thai society that would like to see the Pattaya of today disappear and a new family-friendly resort emerge. I’m equally as sure that there is a large group in Pattaya who have a vested interest in the ways things are now and are making a lot of money through the bar and nightlife scene.
But do those pushing for Pattaya to be a family friendly resort really know what they want? The beaches in Pattaya are horrible. If not for the nightlife, there would be little reason for tourists to visit when compared to other locations like Phuket and Ko Samui.
I’m always amazed when I see busloads of package tourists from Russia, China, Korea, and other Asian nations unload in Pattaya. I can’t help but think they have been duped by their tour operators. Yet there seems to be a never-ending supply.
These types of tourists don’t spend money in the local economy. They even have a term for it, “Zero Dollar Tourism”. Thailand has been cracking down on these tours. But without them or the nightlife tourists, who is going to fill the void? Who is going to fill up all those empty hotel rooms and eat in the empty restaurants? When is the last time you’ve been in a restaurant next to a group of these tourists? I’d guess never.
Getting rid of the nightlife in Pattaya completely will likely see the city shrivel to a fraction of what it is today. Many hotels and small businesses will go bust.
Moving Nightlife Back Past Second Road
One opinion that has been bantered about for a while is that they will push the nightlife back to Second Road or even Soi Buakhao, leaving the Beach Road area for ‘respectable’ tourist. No more Walking Street. No more Soi 6.
Anyone one who has been visiting Pattaya for a decade or more can see this has already been slowly unfolding. Whole Soi’s have been bought up, beer bar complexes were torn down, and new hotels built in their place. Soi LK Metro has already taken shape as a smaller version of Walking Street, possibly people expecting the inevitable.
This seems to be the best-case scenario most people in the know are contemplating right now. It will keep the Pattaya nightlife alive, but out of the way. It will keep the lucrative Western tourists coming, filling hotels, bars, and restaurants.
Personally, I think this is the direction things are heading and that the current crackdown is the start of a push to make this happen quickly and not the end of the nightlife scene. But quickly is a relative term in Thailand and we’ve been talking about the same scenarios for the last 10 years. Only time will tell.
What say you? What is Pattaya going to look like in the near future? Is nightlife finally going to be driven out or are people just chicken littles waiting for the sky to fall?