Empower Foundation Open Letter to the Prime Minister and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration

June 2020

Open Letter To: The Prime Minister and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)

Re: Situation of sex workers during the COVOD 19 crisis Empower Foundation and the network of human rights organizations take this opportunity to present this Open Letter to the Prime Minister and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government ordered Entertainment Places to close, beginning on the 18 March 2020. Three months have passed, and the government has gradually allowed other businesses to re-open under the supervision of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). This re-opening has been carried out in phases, with Phases 1 – 3 now complete, and Phase 4 underway. The CSSA has announced that entertainment places, bars, karaoke, and soapy massage parlors will remain closed. The ongoing closures will impact many sex workers.

According to an inspection of Entertainment Places undertaken by the Ministry of Interior in 2015, there were a total of 142,786 Entertainment Places. If each place employed just ten workers, it would mean Entertainment Places employ upwards of 1,427,860 workers. Sex workers are providing for their extended family, so a further five people will be affected for each sex worker out of work. The total number of people impacted is around 7.5 million people.

Because the government has not given a clear indication how long the closure orders will need to stay in place, sex workers are unable to make plans for their lives and the lives of their families. As one sex worker told Empower “If places stay closed, they have to help; If they can’t help, they must open”

Empower Foundation and the other signatories below are deeply concerned that by failing to provide direct assistance to those impacted, and by not giving a clear indication of the length of the closures, the government is increasing the risk of serious consequences such as increased corruption and exploitation, which will negatively impact on society including but not limited to sex workers.

Therefore, we urge the Government

1. To make a clear announcement how long entertainment places can expect to stay closed

2. To extend the period of the COVID relief support payments of 5,000 baht/month and to ensure it reaches all sex workers, including migrant and indigenous sex workers

3. To urgently pay the unemployment benefits owed to members of the Social Security Scheme Article 33, and extend the payment period from 90 days to 180 days

4. To expunge the criminal records of all sex workers arrested on prostitution charges so starting a new life more possible.

We trust the government recognizes the importance and urgency of the situation of sex workers in line with their promise “We don’t leave each other behind”. We hope “the government won’t leave us behind”

Respectfully yours,

Empower Foundation

Sex Workers of Phuket Sex Workers of Krabi

Sex Workers of Bangkok

Sex Workers of Pattaya

Sex Workers of Samut Sakhon

Sex Workers of Udon Thani

Sex Workers of Mukdahan

Sex Workers of Chiang Rai

Sex Workers of Chiang Mai