Bua used to earn up to 40,000 baht ($1,300) a month as a sex worker in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Mai when the coronavirus forced entertainment venues to close, leaving her jobless.

Since March, the 32-year-old single mother, who is Burmese, has racked up debts of more than 15,000 baht to pay for her daughter’s education and rent.

Bua survived on handouts from the sex worker group Empower Foundation, which ranged from rice to tampons, since government handouts required her to show a Thai identification card.

“If it wasn’t for Empower, I would have committed suicide,” said Bua, who asked in a phone interview not to use her real name and requested anonymity so family members did not find out about her work.

While Thailand has announced plans for bars, pubs and karaoke venues to re-open from Wednesday this week after being closed for four months, sex workers fear there will be few clients as most are foreigners and the borders remain closed.

2014 UNAIDS report estimated there were 123,530 sex workers in Thailand but advocacy groups put the figure at more than twice that number, including tens of thousands of migrants from neighbouring Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Many young women are now among the 2 million Thais the state planning agency believes may be made unemployed this year because of the impact of the virus.

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Thailand’s Migrant Sex Workers Fear for the Future by Nanchanok Wongsamuth

June 30th, 2020