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A Harsh Reality For Working Girls

Crushed by the Pandemic, bar girls who came close to fulfilling their dreams have been left jobless, alone and abandoned. 


It was almost a fairytale ending for 26-year-old Nok. An Issan farmgirl turned  bar girl in love with a boyfriend who was about to sweep her off to a better,more secure life in England.

Queuing up for handouts of rice and eggs this week, Nok who came to Koh Samui from Khon Kaen two years ago, came so close to fulfilling the dream so many young women from Thailand’s rural northeast can only imagine.

Nok, like many young women had become a single mother after her Thai boyfriend had  left her for another woman.

Before she came to Samui she was working long shifts in a clothes factory until it closed down.

Disillusioned by the experience with her Thai boyfriend and in the need of a job fast that would cover her hire purchase payments on her motorbike and sustain her 3 year old daughter she could leave in the care of her mother, Nok came to Samui to work as a hostess in a bar with the hope of meeting a foreign man to settle down and raise a family.

The long hours, heavy drinking of lady drinks, sometimes going with men she didn't like and sometimes dealing with drunken abusive tourists at the bar, had begun to take it's toll on Nok.


Then, one night, John a British man walked into her bar and her luck changed. The two struck up a relationship instantly. Like most men who come to Thailand on holiday he was  fed up with the personalities of a western woman and specifically came to Thailand hoping to find a Thai girl  to marry and live with him in England.

He showed Nok photos of his home town in England and asked her if she would be happy to live there and take of him.

He explained he had been single for a long time and  just wanted to settle down.

Nok showed him photos of her daughter and explained how her Thai boyfriend had left her for another woman and asked him if her daughter would be a problem for him, he had no objections whatsoever. and was looking forward to meeting her.

The two were in love and plans to make a visa were quickly made.


At the same time, the coronavirus had begun its devastating sweep across the world.

Before they knew it, airlines were canceling flights and governments blocking entry from virus-hit Asia. John quickly had to pack his bags and get home before Britain closed the borders.

Nok was left behind. Her bar closed and her boss said it would  probably never reopen. She applied for the government’s 5,000-baht a month casual-worker stimulous payment, but bar workers were told they didn't qualify.

Braving a threatening thunderstorm Wednesday, Nok joined the line of the hungry and unemployed seeking free food handouts.

Nok said she feels no shame in taking charity. So many people are in the same boat she said. The entire country is suffering. And now that the government has extended its emergency decree another month, she said the pain will only worsen, especially for bargirls like her.

Many of her friends were lucky enough to get home before the government halted interprovincial buses and trains. She had lingered in Samui until it was too late.

For Nok, each day has become about survival.

Every night  Nok walks the streets sometimes with other girls in similar circumstances, hoping to find a customer, just so she can pay the rent on her tiny room .

There’s no more thought of an English fairytale ending. The coronavirus pandemic is worse in the U.K than Thailand and her boyfriend is locked down and out of work too. 

“I wish him best of luck and hope that I will see him again some time,” she said.

Instead of England, Nok simply hopes to make it back to Khon Kaen to see her mother and her daughter.

Nok is done with bars and the dream of meeting a decent foreign Man and for now just hopes eventually, she'll  be able to get a bus from Koh Samui to her home in Khon Kaen once the service resumes.


The closure of bars and entertainment venues across the country due to the pandemic set off a domino-effect disaster, with the economic impact trickling down from bar workers to taxi drivers to food vendors and beyond.

The state sponsored Transport Company announced 2 June it was maintaining its ban on services to the southern provinces and journeys of more than 300km.

The company was expected to resume services from Bangkok to Koh Samui, Phuket and Trang from 1 June 2020.


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