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From the Hot Tub to the Hot Seat

October 31, 2019

Most folks outside of Bangkok have never heard of Chuwit Kamolvisit and would be unaware that a high percentage of reasonably affluent, young Thai males visited one of his famous massage parlors long before they completed their formal schooling. Prior to going legit, Chuwit controlled the Davis Group which owned and operated six Bangkok massage parlors that are listed below for any of our foreign readers who may have visited Bangkok: Copacabana, Victoria’s Secret, Honolulu, Hi Class, Emmanuelle and Julianna. These establishments employed some 2,000 women that operated within a “grey area” of Thai law - massage parlors are legal, but prostitution is not. However, the image below of Chuwit gives you the impression of a convivial spa experience. 
Given the “grey” area of Thai law, there was plenty of opportunity for the Thai police to become “partners” in this endeavor. Following another police difficulty regarding some land Chuwit owned, he publicly stated that he had bribed the police an average of $160,000 per month for a period of ten years. For those without a calculator at hand, those payments totaled over $19 million. However, following his disclosure of payments to police, Chuwit’s police relationships took a turn for the worse resulting in police raids rather than police officers coming for spa treatments. Accordingly, he began to sell his massage parlors to other more discreet parties. Note the modification of “Victoria’s Secret” to “Victoria The Secret Forever” which Chuwit failed to remember when he accused the police of taking bribes. 
Following his withdrawal from the “spa” business, Chuwit chose another worthy profession-politics. He became a fierce critic of police corruption and formed a political party which he merged into the “conservative Chart Thai Party” and became a member of parliament. However, the Thai Constitutional Court revoked his MP status citing an irregularity in the time he had been a member of the merged party. Undaunted, he formed his “Love Thailand” party where he campaigned as a protest candidate and anti-corruption watchdog. His party won four seats in the House of Representatives. The following year he gave a lecture at a Thai university where he described how the Thai police make money from the sex industry. 
Strangely, the Thai Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Office found Chuwit guilty of concealing his assets in statements he made to the National Anti-Corruption Commission and sent him directly to jail and also banned him from politics for five years. After one month, Chuwit was released from prison and he stated that “his health had improved in prison as no one smoked and drank in the prison so most of them were in good health.” His prison experience is quite different than other Thai prison accounts the author has heard. Nonetheless, he appears quite pleased to be on the outside. His son said upon his release that he might take him out of the country to a place with cold weather - sort of a cooling-off period. 
Perhaps Chuwit has taken the opportunity to visit his old alma mater, the University of San Diego in California, where he earned a Masters of Business Administration. Subsequent to that he also earned a Masters of Political Science at Thammasart University in Bangkok. The obvious take-away here is that everyone was comfortable with Chuwit’s chosen profession but there is no room for “whistle-blowers” and the power of the police extends to the top of the Thai pyramid of government. Nonetheless, it is likely that Chuwit has adopted a low profile that, despite his “slim up program” in prison, he considers himself fortunate to still be on the right side of the earth. “Welcome to Thailand.”

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