The women’s affairs department at Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security said it was in the process of amending the prostitution law and would launch an online public hearing next year, without giving further details.
“We are aware of complaints regarding rights violations of sex workers due to this law… and we are not neglecting their suggestions (to repeal the law),” a spokesman said.
A 2014 report by the U.N. agency fighting AIDS estimated that there were 123,530 sex workers in Thailand but advocacy groups put the figure at more than twice that number and say it includes tens of thousands of migrants from neighbouring Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Prostitution is currently punishable by a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,274) or two years in prison, or both. People who pay for sex with underage workers can be jailed for up to six years.
More than 24,000 people were arrested, prosecuted and fined for sex work-related offences in Thailand last year, according to the Royal Thai Police.
Surang Janyam, director of the Service Workers in Group, a Thailand-based support organisation for sex workers, said the prostitution law should be repealed to allow sex workers to be protected under labour laws.
“The sex industry generates massive income (for the country), but there is no mechanism to protect (sex workers),” Surang said.