In April, the ever-controversial Chuwit Kamolvisit revealed he had published a report on Thailand’s prostitution industry for his Thammasat University thesis 10 years ago and it was to be found within its library. The former massage parlour mogul revealed the industry, at least up to the Covid-19 pandemic, continued to flourish even with the challenge faced by an ageing society. He estimated that at least one million Thai women were working within a more modern industry empowered by new technology which is more broadly based than before. Since April, Chuwit has been outspoken against the government both concerning the origins of this devastating third wave of the virus and efforts to bring the crisis to an end.

The Prime Minister was defended on Sunday after he and his government came under fire from former Bangkok MP, media personality and sex industry boss, Chuwit Kamolvisit, who has been highly critical of the handling of the Covid-19 crisis by officials since the third wave broke out in the Thong Lor area of the city in early April. Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, an aide at the Prime Minister’s Office, urged Mr Chuwit to do something useful in the face of the outbreak rather than mounting stinging attacks on the government leader.

Chuwit Kamolvisit is a former massage parlour tycoon turned politician in Bangkok who has become vocal in his criticism of the government and ministers since the third wave of the virus broke out in the nightlife scene in the Thong Lor district of the city. On Sunday, the Secretary to the Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana (inset top left), urged the colourful Bangkok character and businessman (centre and inset bottom left) to tone down his criticism and instead seek to do something constructive as the government fights the virus and pushes forward with its vaccination drive. In early April, Mr Chuwit also gave an insight into Thailand’s prostitution industry estimating that, during normal times, it gives employment to over 1 million Thai women, more than official estimates

A senior aide to Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has come to his defence after the government leader, this week, faced criticism from a former massage parlour boss and city politician over the handling of the Covid-19 crisis particularly relating to the outbreak in Bangkok.

Chuwit Kamolvisit, as well as being a former vice empire boss linked with the capital’s vast sex industry is also a property tycoon, politician and media personality known in Bangkok for his straight-talking and unflinching style which often leads him into controversy.

Chuwit came third in the 2008 election for Governor of Bangkok after hitting a reporter with a punch

In 2008, while running for the governorship of Bangkok, the then politician punched a reporter for referring to him as unmanly in an incident which may have turned some people off voting for him but, nevertheless, saw him finishing third in the contest with 16% of the vote.

Government lacks the vision to tackle the crisis says former massage parlour boss as virus ravages city

Since early April, the Bangkok businessman has been openly critical of the government referring to the origins of the third wave of the virus at high-end nightlife spots in the Thong Lor area of the capital frequented by senior officials.

Police probe high-end Thong Lor club prostitution links and may call in the owners for questioning

This week, he also accused the government of lacking vision in its efforts to combat the disease and bring the virus to heel. 

It followed trenchant criticism of the government from business circles over the failure by authorities to buy enough vaccines.

Efforts to procure large vaccine stocks

In response, the government of Prayut Chan ocha has emphasised its efforts to procure large stocks of vaccine doses but has also been busy moving forward with the country’s vaccination drive.

Officials have also been coordinating efforts to combat virulent clusters of infection in the centre of Bangkok in areas such as Klong Toey where the virus is reportedly spreading widely among family members aided by the high population concentrations in inner-city neighbourhoods.

Official at the Prime Minister’s Office urged Mr Chuwit to have a better understanding of the situation facing the government and to be constructive

Coming to the defence of Prime Minister Prayut, on Sunday, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, the secretary to the minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, called on Mr Chuwit to show a better understanding of the serious situation facing the country and the Prime Minister’s actions to date.

He suggested that if there was a third outbreak, it followed a period when many business leaders were also calling on the Prime Minister and his government to open up the country and let business activities get back to normal after the first and second outbreaks.

Mr Thanakorn said he did not want to criticise the former sex industry boss for his past which he said everyone was already well aware of.

He suggested that Mr Chuwit was entitled to some respect because of his seniority, but urged the businessman to do something useful about the current situation and crisis facing the country rather than just sniping at the Prime Minister’s efforts.

Chuwit is a popular figure in Bangkok

Despite his notoriety for the nature of the business empire he built up, Mr Chuwit is a popular figure in Bangkok and is acknowledged by many for his charisma, unique perspective and impish attitude.

Jailed no less than three times in the past, the last occasion for failing to make an accurate asset disclosure, Mr Chuwit described his then one month sentence at Bangkok Remand Prison as ‘unpleasant’ but referred to it as a one-month inspection of the prison which he described as cleaner than on previous occasions.

‘I humbly accepted the ruling of the court. The good point of the Thai justice system is mercy. I love this country. All know deep down in their heart whether they are innocent or guilty. If they make it easier by admitting the crime, the court will show mercy and the trial will not be lengthy,’ Mr Chuwit said after his release when he told the media that he was looking forward to some clean air and good seafood. ‘I didn’t use any lawyer in my case. I have money but I have a principle that I’d rather serve a short term in prison than a longer term by losing the case after a long legal battle.’

Former sex industry boss gave insight into the prostitution industry in Thailand in April 2021

In April 2021, the former sex industry tycoon, in a lengthy social media post, gave some insight into the notorious Thai prostitution industry.

The MBA holder explained to his social media audience that there is a deficit of factual and comprehensive information about the industry due to its ‘grey’ area status but that he had produced, 10 years previously, a publication on the subject for his master’s thesis which he said was available in the library of Thammasat University.

Prostitution industry in Thailand now has a broader base says Chuwit and refers to his MBA thesis for Thammasat University 10 years ago

He described the prostitution industry as one that is still growing but did acknowledge that it has been impacted by the country’s inexorable shift to an ageing society driven by the declining birth rate which, he pointed out, has been compensated for by operators through the importation of sex workers from neighbouring countries.

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On the other hand, Mr Chuwit said that the changes in society, even in Thailand, long considered a conservative bastion of traditional values, coupled with the advent of new technology, has widened the scope of the industry meaning that in today’s world the prostitution industry now in the kingdom has a broader base.

Industry expert and insider Chuwit estimates that there are at least 1 million Thai women linked with the prostitution industry which now has a broader base

In his disclosure, he made it clear that the thousands of women working in the escort industry, the modelling industry and those working as ‘Thai pretties’ as well as a range of other new modes of activity linked to dating and entertainment, were all, at the end of the day, linked with the prostitution industry.

In total, he estimated that at least 1 million Thai women were working within these spheres of activity in its present format.

The number is far higher than official estimates and that of NGOs in the sector which put the figure at between 250,000 to 400,000.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic, since its outbreak in March 2020 in Thailand, has led to strong anecdotal evidence that many in the business have returned home or are working on a restricted basis as the nightlife industry in Thailand has been hit hard by the downturn.

This also has meant a dearth of foreign tourists including a large proportion of ‘sex tourists’ since the closure of Thailand to mass foreign tourism last year.

Low entry barriers to Thai women and guaranteed high cash returns is what drives the industry

He explained the reason that the business was so attractive to so many Thai women was that it did not have entry barriers and the returns were high.

Mr Chuwit described women aged between 18 and 25 years of age in the industry as working in a golden era of their lives and pointed out that many working in high-end prostitution venues or gentlemen’s clubs in Bangkok were earning well more than ฿100,000 per month.

He explained that after this age, they moved to other markets such as Pattaya or Phuket to preserve their earnings as they were pushed out by new younger women entering the business.

He described this as a continuous cycle.

Says there may be 100,000 minors in the trade

Mr Chuwit frankly admitted that underage women or minors were working within the industry and estimated the number at a relatively high and disturbing 100,000 or 10%.

In June 2004, Mr Chuwit was acquitted by a Thai court after he was charged when three underage girls were found at one of his establishments after the court heard that the women had presented forged ID cards when seeking employment as masseuses.

Controversial property destruction incident in 2003 led to a change of career and direction for Chuwit

This followed one of the most controversial incidents in the former sex tycoon’s career when a whole block of bars on Sukumvit 10, in the centre of Bangkok, were raised to the ground one night in 2003.

He was later, along with up to 130 other people, acquitted of all charges relating to the operation which appeared to be planned and coordinated.

A subsequent court case ensued in which it emerged that the massage parlour boss had been paying police bribes of nearly ฿5 million a month to local police for a period of 10 years.

This reportedly led to a rift with Mr Chuwit and the local police which led to his new career as a politician and media personality.

Son of a Hong Kong man of Chinese descent and Thai mother is highly educated and a former MP

Chuwit is also highly educated. 

The son of a Hong Kong man of Chinese descent and a Thai mother, the would-be massage parlour baron started life with a degree from Thammasat University in Accounts and Commerce. 

Since then, he has attained an MBA from the University of San Diego and a masters in Politics and Government from Thammasat.

He was elected to the Thai parliament as a party-list member for the Chart Thai Party in 2005 although he was later removed by the Constitutional Court on a technicality.

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