Young dancing girls a dilemma for Culture

The Nation, Nov 1, 2006

Bangkok, Thailand -- A proposed regulation to ban women aged younger than 20 working as so-called "coyote dancers" is attracting fire for alleged violation of workers' rights.

Culture Minister Khunying Khaisri Sriaroon yesterday vowed to resolve the issue of young women promoting products or entertaining at public events "dressed in skimpy outfits and moving erotically".

She said she was exploring legal avenues to restrict the practice.

Her Majesty the Queen recently expressed concern at television coverage of young women dancing at a Buddhist charity event at Nong Khai.

The ministry wants a regulation to stop women under 20 from working as product presenters and dancers at public events. Khaisri is due to meet officials, employers and the media on November 8 to find solutions.

The ministry's Cultural Monitoring Centre was investigating.

Meanwhile, Labour Protection and Welfare Department chief Padungsak Thephasdin na Ayutthaya said prohibiting under-20s from working as dancers was against labour rights. He said women aged around 20 were mature and had a right to work where and at what they wished.

He said event organisers should do their homework before sending dancers to events or locations to ensure it was appropriate for them to appear. The dancers themselves could use their own discretion and cultural knowledge to determine if what they were doing was tasteful.

The law already provides regulations restricting young people from certain work - in the sex trade for example.

However, he admitted the "coyote" issue was difficult. There was little information about employer-employee patterns. The department was working on the problem so the industry could be controlled and penalties for rule breaches imposed.

Education Minister Wijit Srisaan warned the Culture Ministry to proceed with caution. Regulations had to be workable and individual rights protected.

"This is not an issue like drinking alcohol. If anyone dances in public in a lewd manner it would be inappropriate regardless of age," he argued.

Wijit said the Education Ministry already had guidelines governing student conduct, and improper behaviour resulted in disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry permanent secretary Pongpayom Wasaputi informed provincial governors of Her Majesty's concerns and sought their help in preventing future inappropriate performances, especially at Buddhist sites and public events.