I don't understand what exactly Happy Zones are supposed to be? What's the difference between that and what it is like now?
In effect, there is no difference. It was a slight-of-hand concept of the type officialdom uses to give the appearance of addressing an issue that may reflect poorly on then in the media. It's over with almost before it starts. Although not specifically mentioned in the article, the gay venues are typically required to tone down their shows and dress up their boys until the thing blows over. Sometimes non-Thai guys are required to make themselves scarce for a while. The French news agency AFP visited Pattaya after the Happy Zones were implemented and distributed the following account that was picked up by The Nation.
By Agence France-Presse
In a daring nautical themed outfit, sex worker May confidently predicts the survival of Thai sleaze town Pattaya despite a junta attempt to tame the kingdom's "Sin City".
She is bullish because she, like tens of thousands of others in the industry, have no plans to give up their jobs. And there are no signs the hordes of foreign sex tourists are abating.
Two hours east of Bangkok, Pattaya's bawdy reputation hails from the Vietnam War era when American GIs partied in their downtime.
Today it spins money off its no-holds-barred reputation and its most successful sex workers earn anywhere between 70-150,000 baht ($2-4,400) a month, as much as ten times the national average wage.
"I make good money here, for me and my family," May told AFP as she touted for clients near 'Walking Street' -- a mile-long drag festooned with bars and clubs pouring out ear-crushing EDM music.
But concerns about the impact on Thailand's reputation have spurred authorities to act, while frequent reports of underage sex workers, drug abuse and mafia operations further muddy Pattaya's name.
May, who is transgender, said the strip has felt more subdued in recent weeks as police and soldiers conduct frequent patrols as part of a clean-up ordered by the censorious ruling junta.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Sulasak Kalokwilas is one of those tasked with what many might deem the ultimate Sisyphean task: weaning Pattaya off sex.
"We are suppressing obscene and dirty shows. We're trying to make those bars disappear," he explained.
As he spoke, lines of women stood behind him in revealing outfits enticing punters into bars with names like Taboo and G-Spot as well as Fahrenheit -- a nightspot boasting "The Hottest Girls in Pattaya".
"The lady boys and women working there, they are not involved in the sex trade," said Pattaya's police chief Colonel Apichai Kroppeth, echoing the kind of Thai police rhetoric commonly divorced from reality.
For many residents of the city the latest moral outrage fits a familiar pattern: negative overseas headlines prompt authorities to launch high-visibility -- yet limited -- crackdowns on an industry that pays the bills for everyone.
"You're expecting the poachers to be the gamekeepers?" said one westerner who has made Pattaya his home, when asked if the latest clean-up will work.
The sex trade is a cash cow for the bar owners, girls, massage parlours, hotels, taxis, mafia and, many have long alleged, the cops charged with policing.
A small "bar fine", usually around 500 baht ($14), secures private "short time" away from the bar where any deal struck for sex is purely between the punter and prostitute.
While authorities have vowed to shutter the trade, there is little discussion on what happens to the sex workers -- who often support large families with their earnings.