Sex tycoon turns civic avenger

BANGKOK: A sex tycoon who owns a string of massage parlours in Thailand is boiling with anger and indignation against the police. 

With nearly 2,000 young women working for him, Chuwit Kamolvisit says he plied police for years with cash, Rolex watches, European cars and free services at his six parlours, with names like Emmanuelle, Victoria's Secret, and Honolulu Love Boat. 

Thailand's massage parlour tycoon Chuwit Kamolvisit (C) poses in a jacuzzi inside Copa Cabana, one of his six upscale entertainment clubs in Bangkok on August 2, 2003. A bribery scandal involving Chuwit and senior police has gripped the country and put the spotlight on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's campaign against police corruption. - REUTERS/Adrees Latif

And what does he get in return? Harassment and indifference when he got into trouble with the law for employing underage girls. 

So Chuwit, 42, became a crusader for civic virtue, a celebrity avenger, holding daily news conferences to reveal charges of police greed, threatening to name the high-ranking policemen he says were beneficiaries of his generosity. 

“This isn't a love comedy. It's a war movie. Somebody has to die in the end,'' the trim, moustachioed entrepreneur, who favours pink shirts and flashy ties, said in an interview at one of his clubs, Copa Cabana. 

Thais are hanging on his every word, eagerly awaiting the latest episode of Chuwit's serial expose. Suddenly, the news channels and front pages of Thai newspapers have become spicier. 

“Chuwit has become a public icon,'' wrote Suthichai Yoon, the editor of The Nation, an English language daily. 

Chuwit has not provided a shred of evidence to back his claims. But in a country where police corruption is legendary, the credibility of Bangkok's officers is much the same of its massage parlour owners. No surprise then that the Thai public are enjoying watching the brown-uniformed force squirm under Chuwit's torrential allegations on national television. 

“Once he may have been a 'bad boy' ready to cut corners and grease palms ... but when he decided to go for broke against corrupt police, Chuwit overnight became the darling of the urban middle class, who saw him as the outlet for their entrenched frustrations against 'crooks in uniform',” Suthichai wrote. 

Chuwit's troubles – and those of the force – started when police arrested him on May 2 on charges of unlawfully demolishing a block housing scores of bars and shops to make way for another massage parlour, the Taj Mahal. 

On May 3, he was charged with running a brothel using underage girls at the Honolulu Love Boat. He could face 20 years in prison if convicted. 

In Thailand, a massage can mean two things – a genuine oil rub by hard-knuckled middle-aged masseurs, or the massage from a young woman that usually leads to sex in a back room. 

But what happens at the parlour is between the masseur and the client, Chuwit says. 

He claims to have spent about US$289,156 (RM1mil) each month in payoffs to policemen. He said he had even treated them to expensive wines, house renovations, tuition fees and event tickets. 

“Enough is enough. I'm a mad dog now,'' he said. “If they can't help me out of something trivial like this, I see no point why I should continue paying it.'' 

Chuwit's allegations – made most dramatically at a press conference on a street outside the prime minister's office – named no names, carrying only hints about who took the money: Inspector T, Captain S and a “tall commander'' whose name begins with T. 

At his side were his four sons, his wife and one of his mistresses. He cradled a Buddha in his arms to swear to his seriousness. He claimed even to have been kidnapped by the police. Still, his histrionics have yielded results: Last Tuesday, 17 policemen were suspended and 11 others moved to posts at police headquarters on grounds there was clear evidence that they had been seeking personal gain from Chuwit's enterprises. 

His allegations have also forced national police chief Gen Sant Sarutanond to acknowledge that he is an investment partner with a hotel owner who also runs massage parlors. 

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has promised to transfer the entire force, if they are implicated, at the Huay Kwang police district, the main massage parlour neighbourhood. 

“They deserve punishment for their insatiable greed,'' Chuwit said. – AP 

For Another perspective from The Nation, a partner of Asia News Network, click here

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