In recent times, the women from China have become a rare sight after various raids and tough action against them. However, Vietnamese women who look to be in their mid-to-late-40s have filled the gap.

These women, believed to be on social visit passes, scour the area around Chinatown MRT station, stopping now and then to talk to elderly men and retirees sitting around the area, reported The New Paper.

A hawker, who declined to be named, said, "These women are not so young, so they openly target the retirees because maybe they are the ones who are willing to pay."

Shin Min Daily News quoted a man saying, "She (a Vietnamese woman) started chatting with me, then pulled me to a corner and asked me if I was interested (in sex).

"She was bold and even quoted me her price," he added.

The women, however, dress discreetly in blouses and jeans instead of revealing outfits to avoid unnecessary attention.

Another hawker, Tan, said, "They are here at all hours of the day, chatting up the older men who hang around here and, if they are willing, offer sexual services.

"Before, we had China girls here... now it looks like these Vietnamese women are taking over.

"I think it's not good for the image of the place."

Another man, who runs a food stall at People's Park Centre, told TNP, "I've noticed quite a few Vietnamese women hanging around during the day time and even in the evening these last few months.

"They will sit around and chat up the men who congregate here."

According to one man, the going rates for these prostitutes average S$100 per hour.

Another man said that the prostitutes are actually from the back lanes of Geylang, where it is now over-populated by women from China, Indonesia and Vietnam, all vying for the same customers. Thus, they have to resort to operating in the open of Chinatown for money.

"They know it's dangerous and the risk of being arrested is high because they're operating in the open, but in the end, it's all about the money," he said.

Many prostitutes have moved away from Geylang in recent years, to neighbourhoods such as Joo Chiat, Haig Road and Tanjong Katong.

In 2009, a total of 7,614 foreign women were arrested for suspected vice-related activities, up from 5,047 the previous year.

By Ewen Boey - Agence France Presse - October 27