Thailand is geographically blessed, a truly beautiful country with some amazing scenery, lovely clear warm waters and spectacular beaches, which rightly make it one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations.

Within this marvellous landscape, Thailand’s culture is also a fascinating vision, adorned with beautifully ornate temples, finely crafted with enormous architectural and decorative skill.

How sad it is, then, that Thailand’s reputation is so tarnished around the world by its famous sex industry, most evident in Bangkok, which in some cases dissuades potential visitors from experiencing the otherwise truly outstanding beauty of this remarkable country.

In modern day Thailand, however, the main areas of prostitution and the accompanying seedy nightclubs are easy enough to avoid, and are centred on the area around Silom and Surawong Roads of the Patong district in Bangkok, South Pattaya Beach Road in the beach resort of Pattaya, and to a much lesser degree Bangla Road in Patong, Phuket.

However, to give some perspective, these districts are intrinsically no different from those found at De Wallen in Amsterdam or Hamburg’s Reeperbaan.

Put in context, prostitution is globally and historically commonplace everywhere, and the chances are, whatever country, city, town or village neighbourhood you live in there is likely some measure of commercial sexual activity nearby.

This is not to say that sex is, of itself, anything shameful, nor indeed should we overlook the fact that some women freely choose prostitution as a livelihood, though it is equally true that the escape of impoverishment is most usually the driving force.

The problem, of course, has its roots in the behaviours and attitudes of men, driven by powerful instinctual sex drives they seem unable or unwilling to properly control, combined with their innately often abusive treatment of women throughout history.

Historically in Thailand, as with many other countries, men were traditionally allowed more than one wife, and as a result, many Thai wives understandably preferred that their husbands visited prostitutes rather than being forced to except the presence within the home of a ‘junior wife’. Polygamy was abolished in Thailand in 1935, but the ‘right’ of a man to rape his wife was only finally abolished in the year 2000.

In a duplicity common throughout the world, Thai law traditionally forbade a wife to sue for divorce on the grounds of infidelity, while it was the right of a man to do so in the case of female infidelity.

In the modern age especially, significant progress has been made toward redressing historic attitudes to women, providing legal rights, votes, independence and dignity to women in many countries, even including Thailand, which in 1997 amended the Thai constitution to enshrine in law equal rights for women, though, as elsewhere, the hangover of the past still prevails in popular attitudes.

Despite these positive advances, a vast increasingly sophisticated empire of interconnected criminal gangs operate throughout the globe, trafficking people, largely from poor countries, as sex slaves, just another lucrative component in the worldwide peddling of the misery of criminality, drugs, weaponry and death, often in collusion with corrupt governments and police forces.

The number of Thai prostitutes has in recent years shown hopeful signs of decline as standards of living in the country improve, but this shortfall has been addressed by increasing numbers of eastern European and Russian girls forcibly trafficked into Thailand.

What really marks Thailand out is the industrial scale and international dimensions of the sex trade, and the development of sex tourism, for which the American involvement in Vietnam is almost wholly responsible.

During the war, the proximity of Thailand to Vietnam, together with its very pleasant surroundings, made the country an obvious choice for providing recreational breaks for the vast numbers of US troops pouring into the conflict, which at the height of the war reached half a million men.

The operational ‘needs’ of the US army fighting in Vietnam led to a contract being drawn up between the US and Thai governments, disguised through investments made via the Chase Manhattan Corporation and Bank of America Corporation among others, to provide a host of recreational services, including sex, to troops stationed there, worth an estimated 16 million dollars annually, then a vast amount to a largely impoverished country.

While many of these military-approved sexual encounters were no more than utilitarian, a good many others were characterised by the use of violence and racial abuse, which was predictably mostly ignored by commanders.

This situation was mirrored in Korea during the conflict there, and also in southern Vietnam itself, where many Vietnamese girls were also conscripted into sexual ‘service’ to American troops stationed there.

It is a venerable traditional in Thai society for children, especially female offspring, to repay the ‘debt’ of their upbringing by ensuring the wellbeing of their parents in old age, and in the widespread impoverishment of the times many young girls were easily persuaded by their errant government of the benefits of sex work in the greater need of looking after their families.

However, a great many more were tricked into believing they were being offered government jobs such as housekeeping posts, before the reality of their situations became apparent. In addition, many illegal immigrants struggling to make a living in the country were attracted by the possibility of income levels otherwise impossible to achieve.

Following the withdrawal of American troops prior to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the loss of this vast income led that revered and hallowed institution, the World Bank, in a shockingly revealing glimpse into the reality of international global politics, to help Thailand draft a future economic plan which shamelessly identified income from sex tourism as a major feature for development.

American bases in the Pacific, such as Subic Bay in the Philippines also had officially sanctioned established policies of prostitution, which illustrate the ongoing attitude of the American military, a situation amply illustrated by the 50,000 Amerasian children born in the country before the base closed in 1992.

During the second Persian Gulf War in Iraq, the US again availed itself of Thai 'recreational services', and even today, when US aircraft carriers dock in Pattaya, the dollars start to flow into the local economy without intervention by senior commanders.