Thai sex ty­coon now ex­poses cor­rup­tion he used to foster

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY RICHARD S. EHRLICH

BANGKOK | When Thai vot­ers re­cently elected a joke-crack­ing, former mas­sage par­lor ty­coon to par­lia­ment, they prob­a­bly did not ex­pect him to ex­pose po­lice cor­rup­tion and top­ple the coun­try’s po­lice chief.

All the drama is thanks to the wise-guy tac­tics of Chu­vit Kamolvisit, who is us­ing his sta­tus as a law­maker to fight the same kind of crime he used to pro­mote.

“You need an ex­pert . . . to fight cor­rup­tion,” Mr. Chu­vit said at a re­cent news con­fer­ence. “I can be­come the spe­cial­ist about cor­rup­tion be­cause I know cor­rup­tion.”

He has openly ad­mit­ted brib­ing po­lice of­fi­cers when he owned sev­eral huge Bangkok mas­sage par­lors packed with pros­ti­tutes.

Af­ter win­ning a July elec­tion, he stunned par­lia­ment a month later by dis­play­ing an elab­o­rate video st­ing op­er­a­tion he ar­ranged to show that Thai­land’s big­gest il­le­gal casino ap­peared to be pro­tected by po­lice.

Bangkok has more than 170 il­le­gal gam­bling dens of var­i­ous sizes that bring in a to­tal of up to $6 bil­lion each year. Five per­cent to 20 per­cent of the prof­its go to po­lice, ac­cord­ing to Ra­jab­hat Univer­sity’s Good Gov­er­nance pro­gram.

Hundreds of thou­sands of il­le­gal gam­bling sites ex­ist through­out Thai­land.

Mr. Chu­vit said he ex­posed the big­gest one in Bangkok, which raked in about $500,000 ev­ery night from 1,000 gam- blers in the heart of the city.

“So it be­comes about [$15 mil­lion] per month” in profit for po­lice and oth­ers to share from just that one casino, Mr. Chu­vit said, grin­ning with de­light that his “anti-cor­rup­tion” cru­sade is wildly pop­u­lar with Thai­land’s me­dia and pub­lic.

He spec­u­lated that “100 per­cent” of Thai­land’s il­le­gal casi­nos pay bribes to the po­lice.

“They can­not open with­out the per­mis­sion of the po­lice,” Mr. Chu­vit said. “If you are the big guy from the army, you have to still be pay­ing the po­lice.”

Mr. Chu­vit showed his first video in par­lia­ment on Aug. 23.

It re­vealed the lush in­te­rior of a huge, ex­pen­sively equipped il­le­gal casino packed with gam­blers.

He voiced mock out­rage that po­lice had not closed down Thai­land’s big­gest casino.

De­spite the ex­po­sure of the il­le­gal casino in par­lia­ment, po­lice waited three days be­fore stag­ing a raid and then an­nounced that Mr. Chu­vit was wrong be- cause the build­ing was empty.

“I knew the po­lice would be late,” Mr. Chu­vit said at a news con­fer­ence where he dis­closed a sec­ond video.

That one was shot from a nearby rooftop and showed men and trucks emp­ty­ing the casino’s gam­bling ta­bles and equip­ment dur­ing the three days while the po­lice hes­i­tated.

“Ev­ery night, they moved every­thing. The ceil­ing, the car­pets, the ta­bles, the chairs, every­thing. They moved it in three days. Un­be­liev­able,” he said.

As a re­sult of Mr. Chu­vit’s videos, National Po­lice Chief Gen. Wichean Potephos­ree was forced to re­sign last week.

A Royal Thai Po­lice Of­fice com­mit­tee be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing 10 other se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers for sus­pected in­volve­ment in the case.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Chalerm Yubam­rung, a fear­some former po­lice cap­tain, ex­pressed his own anger about the cor­rup­tion.

“It is im­pos­si­ble that a large casino can open in the heart of Bangkok and toprank­ing po­lice of­fi­cers are not aware of it and do not give a nod to the casino op­er­a­tor,” he said.

Cor­rup­tion is part of Thai­land’s “sys­tem” be­cause “ev­ery­body pays,” Mr. Chu­vit said.

He said he paid $5 mil­lion in bribes in 10 years to pre­vent raids on his mas­sage par­lors, which he be­gan sell­ing in 2003.

“Yes, this is Thai­land. I ac­cept that the mas­sage par­lor is the big­gest sex busi­ness in the world,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Former mas­sage par­lor owner Chu­vit Kamolvisit, elected to par­lia­ment in July, is fight­ing the kind of crime he used to pro­mote. He spec­u­lates that “100 per­cent” of Thai­land’s il­le­gal casi­nos pay bribes to the po­lice.

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