Pattaya is known for its sex tourism despite efforts to clean up its act. This week has seen its seedy underbelly exposed.
Pattaya is known for its sex tourism despite efforts to clean up its act. This week has seen its seedy underbelly exposed.

The violent secrets of sex city

EVEN by Pattaya's violent standards the death of Melbourne man Benjamin Robb was shockingly brutal.

The 42-year-old had been in the resort city south of Bangkok for only 12 hours. He made his way to Ruby Lounge, a notorious spot that promises "to heat things up and bring a flirty mood to your night out".

Since news first broke an Australian had been killed, witnesses claimed to have seen an appalling level of brutality. Repeated punches, kicks, Mr Robb thrown across the room and, finally, his head and face stomped on as friends of the attacker cheered.

One final insult was these friends then took photographs of Mr Robb as he lay dying from a brain bleed.

Thai police charged an American, Jose Manuel Polanco Jr, a 43-year-old who had previously been jailed in the US for killing a man. Polanco told police it was self defence; he claimed Mr Robb had manhandled a female employee.

Thai police appeared to support this by telling media Mr Robb was squeezing her by the neck so hard she was "turning blue".

Benjamin Robb died of severe brain injuries.
Benjamin Robb died of severe brain injuries.

News.com.au has spoken to several Pattaya residents who dispute that version of events. They have suggested there may have been some contact between Mr Robb and the woman, but it was not to the extent that police have said.

Others insist they saw Mr Robb being stomped on - perhaps as many as 10 times. There has been no official confirmation of this by investigators.

CCTV apparently captured the entire incident and is being examined by police. Cameras close to the bar were supposedly switched off.

The closed doors nature of this area of Pattaya is evident of a culture that those who work and play there - and those in government - do not want publicity on.

A Pattaya source told news.com.au this week that the tourist magnet was "no Kansas - and [red light district] Soi 6 is no yellow brick road".

Manslaughter accused Jose Manuel Polanco Jr. Picture: Viral Press
Manslaughter accused Jose Manuel Polanco Jr. Picture: Viral Press

It's an area that has had its fair share of lurid headlines.

Despite prostitution and naked shows being illegal, Soi 6 is awash with escort services - so much it has earned the name the "sex capital of the world".

It's easy to see why. As many as 27,000 sex workers are employed in Pattaya. Many of them can be found on Pattaya's infamous Walking Street, a strip lined with go-go bars and pleasure dens, many of them frequented by visiting Australians.

Thailand last year announced to the world it was getting tough on the sex trade which is illegal.

Businesses use a loophole to avoid breaking the law by hiring sex workers to lurk inside the bars under the pretext of talking to patrons.

A small payment allows patrons a "short time" away from the bar where the two parties can negotiate sex.

A series of dramatic raids and arrests in the sex dens were carried out at the behest of Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand's first female tourism minister.

"Tourists don't come to Thailand for such a thing," she said.

"They come here for our beautiful culture. We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone."

Residents said things did quiet down, briefly and on the surface, but returned - bigger and bolder than ever.

Over the past 12 months the city has been plagued by violent crime and increasing claims that it is a haven for criminals. This week has seen a graphic illustration of the danger that looms along the neon lit narrow streets of Soi 6.

Just a day after Mr Robb was beaten to death, British blood was spilt on the streets after a huge brawl on Walking Street.

The two groups were British tourists and men of Middle-Eastern appearance. They didn't hold back. Onlookers watched in horror as punches were thrown, with several bar girls eventually stepping in to stop the fight.

Witness John Paget, 30, told The Sun: "Men this age should know better.

"But the heat, beer and testosterone are a heady mix and seem to make people behave in ways they wouldn't do at home. Luckily nobody was injured and it dispersed without consequence."

Tragically for Mr Robb there were no second chances. And for his alleged killer, the consequences could be severe.

andrew.koubaridis@news.com.au



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