THE food courts in Pudu are attracting customers from near and far not because of the food, but prostitutes, specifically Chinese nationals.
It seems to be a continuation of the “Kuaci Seduction” that made headlines about five years ago, where prostitutes sold kuaci as the pretext for soliciting at the Peng Hwa food court in Jalan Pasar.
The vice ring was reported to have been busted in 2008 and the food court was demolished.
However, the “China dolls” have merely moved to other locations in Pudu and their business has gone bigger and bolder.
The kuaci pretext has been discarded.
The food courts, namely Kim Wah Cafe in Ace Electronics Complex, Medan Selera Pudu in Jalan Yew and One-Stop Foodcourt in Jalan Gelang are being recommended in online forums and through word of mouth as the places to go to look for prostitutes.
The prostitutes usually start up a chat by asking the men to buy them drinks. Most of the diners at these food courts are senior citizens.
As expected, Ace Electronic Complex does not offer any electronic products.
Its interior is dimly lit in red even during the day. All the shops are closed, save for one or two massage parlours.
Old men mingling with the soliciting women is a common sight there.
The service of the these women is available at all three food courts at any hour of the day. Even as early as 11.30am, some scantily dressed girls can be seen chatting with men over beer.
Many budget hotels found in the area are conveniently used to facilitate the business, while many apartments, including those on the upper levels of Ace Electronic Complex are also used for the purpose.
Food operators at these food courts are not quite bothered by the menace, in fact, they say it’s good for their business.
“It is morally wrong but the women do help us a lot in our business,” said a female stall operator at Medan Selera Pudu who declined to be named.
“Now most of them go to the food court in Ace Electronic Complex and our business has dropped,” she said.
Two female senior citizens, when interviewed at the One-Stop Food Court, said the residents could not do much about the situation.
“It has become so notorious that everyone knows it is the place to go to look for prostitutes. We cannot do much about it. If you have a grandfather at home, just make sure he does not get too much pocket money,” said one of them, half in jest.
Cheras MCA head of public complaints bureau John Hon urged the authorities, especially the Immigration Department and City Hall, to conduct regular raids in the area.
“They should also warn those who use their property for such purpose,” he added.
He said the bureau did not receive complaints because residents in Pudu had become used to vice activities in their neighbourhood.
“The main culprits, I would say, are the relevant authorities and their ineffective measures,” he added.
Raj, 25, from Bangladesh, said he had been visiting the ACE Electronics building regularly for the past four years. In the beginning, he used to visit the place daily at various hours.
“I stopped going regularly because it was costing me too much to see a girl every day,” Rajiv said.
He said potential customers could negotiate the price with the women. Rajiv who speaks very little English and no Mandarin, said language was no barrier.
“The girl will type in her initial price on the handphone. If I feel it’s too high, I will type in a lower figure. This continues until we reach an amount we both agree on,” he said.
Raj said the prostitutes mainly conducted their business in the apartments above the business floors.
There are no “electronics” shops in the building. There is, however, a travel agent on the first floor. It is surrounded by legitimate businesses such as a tailoring shop, a gold and silver dealership and a handphone shop.
The rest of the building is dominated by dimly-lit Internet cafes and the “food court” on the second floor.
Another regular, who wished to be known only as Chong, said there was a difference in prices for Chinese and non-Chinese customers.
“If it’s a non-Chinese customer, the prostitute will usually give them a lower price. But for Chinese customers like my friends and I, the price may be set at RM150, or even RM200,” said Chong.
It was observed during “slow” hours, especially in the afternoon, women will come down to the second floor where they will approach men drinking at the food court.
One girl when approached introduced herself as “Xiao Rong” in a clear Chinese accent. In response to enquiries about her fee, she typed “175” into her phone and showed it to this reporter.
According to both Chong and Raj, there are two “shifts” at the ACE Electronics building.
Older women serve the clientele during the day, while younger ones ranging from their late teens to early 20s take over at night.
All the women are from China.