Chuwit Kamolvisit: Thailand’s ‘super-pimp’ turned sensational whistleblower
Chuwit Kamolvisit has earned the reputation of an anti-corruption hero after repeatedly exposing police bribery and underground businesses linked to corrupt state officials.
Once a self-declared “super pimp”, Chuwit has evolved from a massage-parlour tycoon to become a politician, a convict, a TV talk-show host, and a crusader against Thailand’s chronic corruption.
Over recent months, he has been busy acting as whistleblower, producing evidence against Chinese triad gangs and the dishonest law enforcers helping them to thrive in Thailand. He also spoke out against senior police officers, accusing them of involvement in illegal online gambling.
Chuwit, 61, recently produced a video clip and an eyewitness to back allegations by a Taiwanese actress that Thai police had demanded a 27,000-baht bribe to release her and her friends after they were found in possession of a vaping device, which is illegal in Thailand.
He also claimed that the national police chief recently told him to “tone things down” after he caused a series of headaches for the police force.
Darling of the media
Chuwit’s colorful personality and controversial remarks have made him a darling of the media. He has managed to draw the interest of not only Thai but also foreign media.
He was featured in the Singapore-based Mediacorp’s “Maverick Politicians” series, which premiered in 2017. The synopsis of his episode says: “Chuwit Kamolvisit is a former Thai massage-parlour baron. The self-styled super-pimp sold his business to start his own political party. After exposing multiple scandals in parliament, he has turned to the media as a talk show host for his anti-corruption crusade.”
In 2011, while serving as an opposition MP and leader of a small party called Love Thailand, Chuwit told Reuters that corruption was eating the country and he wanted to become a one-man parliamentary watchdog to root out politicians that were no better than mafia bosses and vice tycoons.
“They say I’m a pimp, but I don’t mind. Sometimes I think a pimp and a politician are the same. In fact, a pimp is better than a politician,” he was quoted as saying.
‘I am too clean for Thai politics’
After becoming an MP in the 2011 election, Chuwit told Singapore’s Channel News Asia that politics was dirtier than his previous business.
“When I jumped into politics, I thought I should make the system more transparent and improve the country. But I found it too dirty for me. Even though I think I am dirty, politics is a lot dirtier than me. I am too clean for Thai politics,” he said in an interview.
He ran unsuccessfully for Bangkok governor twice in 2004 and 2008. He came third on both occasions, winning 13.5% of the votes in his first attempt and 15.8% on his second try.
Political scientist Chalidaporn Songsamphan once said that Chuwit managed to “touch the hearts” of Bangkok voters because he was straightforward.
“He speaks the language of many in the middle class who are unhappy with the Thai leadership, and they view him as a real alternative,” she said.
Born in Hong Kong, raised in Chinatown
Chuwit was born on August 29, 1961, in Hong Kong to a Thai-Chinese father and a Thai mother. He grew up in Bangkok’s Chinatown.
He obtained a bachelor’s degree from Thammasat University’s Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy before earning a master’s in business administration from the University of San Diego in the United States. Later, he also received a master’s in political science from Thammasat University.
After returning from the US, he set up his first massage parlour, called Victoria Secret, in 1989. It grew into the Davis Group – a business empire with six luxury massage parlours in Bangkok. At the peak of his fortunes in the mid-1990s, Chuwit was making a million baht in cash per day from his six soapy-massage venues.
In January 2003, hundreds of men allegedly hired by Chuwit razed several bars and shops on Sukhumvit Square, located on a coveted plot of land, to pave the way for his property development. The raid led to a Supreme Court case 13 years later, in January 2016, where Chuwit was handed two years in prison after filing a guilty plea.
Soon after failing to get police protection for his crime in 2003, Chuwit began claiming that he had paid over 100 million baht in bribes to the police so that his massage-parlour sexual services business could thrive. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand.
The following year, he exposed corruption in the unpopular police force by listing the bribes he allegedly paid to senior officers, including Rolex watches and free services at his parlours. He claimed that sometimes he had to put the bribe money in a garbage bag because an envelope was too small.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk