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Somewhere down there, her colleagues are entertaining customers - male tourists who came to play in the vibrant nightlife of the small border town. Her long bronze hair brushes lightly against the angel wings tattooed across her back. Laila is a nighttime entertainer. An adult entertainer sits with customers in one of the nightclubs in Betong, Yala. Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo. The area, together with neighbouring Pattani, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla, has been hit by decades of violent armed conflict between separatists and Thai authorities.
Thousands of shootings and bomb attacks have rocked the region since , while hundreds of cases of arson have destroyed schools and homes. The violence has resulted in more than 4, deaths and about 10, injuries over the past 15 years. Many incidents took place on a stretch of road connecting Betong with central Yala. Betong is the southernmost district in Thailand. It is surrounded by high mountains and shares a border with Malaysia.
The border town itself also faced bomb threats earlier this year. Yet, despite the potential risks, it manages to draw a steady stream of visitors - mostly foreigners who cross the border from Malaysia.
Betong's strategic location next to the Malaysian state of Perak provides tourists with relatively safe and easy access to an abundance of nightclubs, discotheques and karaoke bars. They can travel from Malaysia to the town centre through the Betong border checkpoint. The distance is only 7km and it's the safest route for tourists," he added. Each year, Betong welcomes hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors - Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indians and Chinese - who mostly arrive by land from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak.
In , more than , visitors came to the border town. But for others, it is the infamous sex trade that operates freely in this border town which is the main attraction. Inside, the pyjama party is in full swing. Alcohol is everywhere. So are women in revealing nightclothes. Others are up on a narrow stage, swaying to the deafening music. The room is pitch black save for the disco lights.