Jonathan Fryer

Bangkok Boy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 16th December, 2008

bangkok-boy  Misery memoirs sell, especially first-hand accounts of child abuse, which is why, I suppose, the Irish publishers Maverick House (who also publish in Thailand)  have put a picture of a tiny boy holding his head in his hands on the cover of Chai Pinit’s Bangkok Boy, as well as giving it the subtitle ‘The story of a stolen childhood’. In fact, the book is nothing of the kind, but rather the fascinating account of the down-spiraling life of a pugnacious provincial youth from a relatively prosperous Thai Khmer background, who was spoilt as the eldest son by his father, threw his weight around amongst his peers, and got involved in gambling and violence from a tender age, soon to be followed by alcoholism. Despite the deeply misleading jacket blurb, he was not sexually molested by anyone while he was a child, but he learned from schoolmates when he was 15 how to use his physical charms for gain, later becoming a gogo boy in Bangkok at the age of 23 at the urging of his younger sister. He later recruited his two younger brothers into the skin-trade.

This might all sound very sordid — and indeed, a lot of it is — but the book’s strength lies in its brutal honesty. Chai Pinit — who now works as an unofficial guide, shepherding tourists to the Thai capital’s fleshpots — details some of the underbelly of Thai society: the prostitution, the thuggery, the police corruption, awful prison conditions and his own bouts of wife-beating when drunk. There are some occasional flashes of humour, such as when he speculates whether he will be reincarnated as a mosquito as punishment for his wickedness in this life. But much of the account is truly horrific, including the savage battering he received at the hands of a former friend, who left him as if for dead in a Bangkok backstreet. It’s a pity that the pubishers have chosen to misrepresent totally the book’s contents, because they make a gripping and illuminating read.

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9 Responses to “Bangkok Boy”

  1. bob said

    I just finished reading this book today, and I fully agree that this guy deserved everything he went through. Not that I wish him ill, but he was greedy, stupid, immoral, and, frankly, corrupt from the start. He knew what he was doing all along. I just don’t feel that goddam sorry for him, and I certainly don’t thing he was ‘abused’; he himself admits that he knew what he was doing when he was 15 years old — he did it for kicks! He wasn’t ‘molested’ — he wanted money, and money he got!! I do feel sorry for him for being so crassly addicted to cash, and I recognise his sincere wish to find redemption, but gosh, this ain’t no tale of ‘abuse’. It’s a tale of greedy stupidity. And he abandoned his parents while he was getting his rocks off. Serves you well, Pinit, serves you well. I hope you can work this off your karma this time around. I really do. But don’t expect my sympathy, and don’t you dare say that ‘the devil made me do it’! Or your perverted teacher, or whomever. You did it yourself, son, you did it yourself.

  2. Tony Sandel said

    I am a journalist and I have just completed reading the book. I agree with Bob’s words. The cover is a stupid misrepresentation of what the book is about. People should not have sex with 15 year olds for money and it certainly may affect a victim in a negative way. But Mr. Pinit does not meet the criteria. He was a dim sociopath from the beginning who on each and every occasion chose the easiest way to exploit love or money from whoever he met along his own degraded journey of life. He has chosen to do every negative and dark act including the recruitment of his two younger brothers into male prostitution as a gang of 3 to serve foreigners fantasies. But the book is in fact terrific. It gives an unusually detailed and dark glimpse into the underbelly of rural Thai culture and values at their worst. It makes comprehensible the beautiful bland smiles one encounters in the bars that Pinit worked at. That his only currency in life is money is interesting. The most interesting of all is that he seems to genuinely feel that the Bangkok male prostitution civilized him and to my surprise I suspect it did from reading the book. He seems uniquely unable to feel anything except his own narcissism but it gets closer when he talks of the men who loved him and kept him though he was essentially quite straight. I think that he admits to many addictions but clearly the biggest one after money is sex. His self reflections are also interesting but I have my doubts they are his. The book is ghostwritten by whoever he is a very good journalistic writer. The foreword thanks him for his help in getting the book published. Only in the very last paragraph do – I believe – we read the wait Pinit actually speaks and I suspect that is just the way he thinks. That he has found happiness and joy is a terrific thing. That he perhaps has moved away from a road of endless self-pity and the most vulgar worshipping of money is great. I wish him and well and I do thank him for telling what is a most interesting and revealing story about the gay bars of Thailand which are anything but gay…

  3. Michael said

    I too just finished reading this book. In actual fact i picked it up in Thailand the day after i visited soi twilight and actually took a bar boy home with me. i spent hours talking to this young man, trying to find out what it was that pushes him to do what he does. He seemed, fairly level headed was a student and had some very moralliistic views on life. He would go to soi twilight, work for 2 months save his money then go home to his family. He was gay and did not believe in love. I actually could not have sex with the young man even though he was trying to insist. We just talked for hours. I gained the most respect for him, I think we westerners look at this a deplorable, and wrong, unfotunately when you go to these areas you see grandmothers, couples, young and old, watching these sex shows because it is part of the experience of bangkok. I think what we really need to look at is not the morally degrading nature of what these boys and ladies do in order to earn mooney, however the poverty in the country that makes people need to do this to survive. When talking to the young man i was amazed at his outlook on what he does. The way he explained that he is giving people pleasure, happiness and gratification, that using his body was his tool, and making a customer happy was his goal. In return he recieved payment. I am dfinately not justifying prostitiution, but keep in mind that poverty which many of us will never experience drives people to justify doing things they normally wouldn’t just to survive. Chai, i was happy that atleast at the end of your story you stopped drinking, IN my opinion i have far less respect for a alcoholic than i do a person who uses their body to make a living. I hope the next visit to Bangkok,, i can seek out chai and speak of his life.

  4. LEO said

    I read this book 1year ago and now I see your comments and want to say.
    Sorry Jonathanfryer – I did not agree with your opionion
    Yes this boy is ugly and all what he is doing bring him in a self created desaster.
    But this is reality in Thailand and also in special ways everywere.
    The way how the boy tell us his story is very autentic and close to live.
    Its true that the subtitle and cover foto leads not in the right way but in my opinion this is the a good trick.
    There is no moral teaching no guide how to teach a bar boy lead him on th eright way. Its the normal chaos which happens all the days around us.
    I dont believe that the story has a happy end, but this is not the point.
    its just a special view of life – not the best one and not the only one, very normal and commen….

  5. Wayne said

    I have to agree with Leo, This is Thailand, this is a business for people in Thailand to make there way through life. I know its sounds emoral for them to have to do such things for money, but this is it for most of them, they have no other means to support themself or there family. There are just to many people here in Thailand for everyone to have a socialy excepted form of income. Don’t feel pitty on these workers they know what they are doing and they know it pays there way in life. I come to Bangkok for this reason to help them as well as help myself feel something with someone, its a win win situation for both parties.

  6. Ian said

    Wayne
    There a growing industrial sector in Thailand. The Japanese are starting to import cars made in their Thailand factories so there is work for those who want it.
    I would be very careful if I were you. AIDS is widespread here.

  7. Michelle said

    I picked this book up from the airport book shop on my way home to Australia as I was so drawn to it.
    This was a book I just could not put down and I thank Chai Pinit for opening up and telling his story. I must say it related kind of to my husband, as he was sold at Kings Cross in NSW as a young child.I have watched him go through the pain it caused for the past 22 years so I felt for all the people in Chai’s book. All I can say is that it was not a nice story but an honest one and for that I thank you. We all have a story may it be good or bad and we all make mistakes at some time in our lives so I am not going to pass judgement but just wish all people happiness and good health…Walk with love :)

  8. hadi said

    i like this story,and it’s give me motivation.thank u

  9. Chrissy said

    I have not read this book yet but met Chai Pinit in Bangkok last week, he is the manager of a bar Scorpion Bar- he was very interesting to talk to and appeared very happy with life. He was very proud of his book and has it displayed everywhere.

    I am looking forward to reading this story

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