Singapore arrested more than 5,000 foreign prostitutes last year but it is unrealistic to expect vice to be eliminated, the Home Affairs Minister has told parliament.
Wong Kan Seng was responding to a question from an MP about efforts to curb "rampant gambling and prostitution" in Singapore's red-light Geylang district.
"The vice situation in Singapore is under control," Wong said in a written response released Tuesday.
He said police across the city-state last year conducted 950 vice-related operations, up from 890 the previous year. They arrested 5,400 foreign sex workers, a 25 percent increase over 2006, he said.
Despite its reputation as a straight-laced society, prostitution is legal in Singapore, where licensed brothels operate in designated areas such as Geylang. Pimping and public solicitation are illegal.
Foreign women working voluntarily in the sex trade cannot be arrested unless they are caught offering their services out in the street or violate immigration and other laws.
Wong, who is also a deputy prime minister, said installation of closed-circuit television cameras in Geylang has helped deter solicitation.
He said daily police operations to target gambling in the back alleys of Geylang led to 280 arrests last year and an improvement in the situation.
"Illegal gambling in Geylang is not rampant," Wong said.
"But I should add that it is not realistic to expect vice to be totally eliminated," he said, particularly as the city-state seeks to promote tourism.
"Among those who come, there will be a very small number who enter under the pretext of social visits but engage in vice activities. This is the reality which Singaporeans should face up to."