More woes for Thailand's "Sin City"


Thai bar girls share a drink with a customer in the red light district in Pattaya on April 10, 2009.



Sodom was destroyed by sulfur raining from above.

Now Pattaya -- Sodom with electricity -- is being devoured by the sea.

Scientists insist that Pattaya, a Thai beach resort synonymous with sleaze, is losing its coastline by about two meters per year. Erosion and over-development, not God's wrath, are the culprits.

(Sorry for being dramatic, but journalists can't resist going biblical when writing about Pattaya. A New York Times feature from last year opined that "if Las Vegas is Sin City, Pattaya is a bear hug from Lucifer himself.")

Pattaya's reputation, already seedy, has taken quite a few lumps recently. 

A Wikileaks document revealed that Russian mafia involvement in the city was so severe that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency was tracking its movements. In 2009, anti-government protesters crashed a major summit, sending world leaders fleeing by motorcade, helicopter and speedboat. Officials are still trying to convince tourists that the sea is safe to swim in after an attempted clean-up attacking years of pollution.

Now the down-and-dirty resort risks losing its beach within five years, according to Reuters. Only a $19 million embankment project can save the city, scientists say. That's a large expenditure to rescue a city regarded as embarrassing by most Thai voters.

Pattaya officials are currently attempting a city-wide makeover to court more families and tourists from newly wealthy countries. Iranians are the latest target because, as Thai tourism officials explained, they're rich and can't easily overcome travel sanctions to the U.S. or Europe.

But, as the city's chief tourism director explained recently, "it's not easy turning a prostitute into a nun." Pattaya's attempt to rebrand itself as a family-friendly beach getaway will be especially hard if it loses its beach.