Massage Tycoon-Turned-Politician Refused US Visa
Massage Parlor Tycoon-Turned-Politician Refused US Visa
by Richard S. Ehrlich
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand's massage parlor tycoon-turned-politician said the American Embassy rejected his visa application, barring him from joining a Thai government trip to visit FBI, DEA and other U.S. officials.
"They don't give any reason, but maybe it was because of the massage parlors I owned before I became a politician," Member of Parliament Chuwit Kamolvisit said in an interview on Thursday (Aug. 18).
He told the U.S. Embassy that he sold his Bangkok massage parlors -- which included the Copacabana, Victoria's Secret, Honolulu, Hi Class, Emmanuel and Julianna -- when he ran unsuccessfully in August 2004 to be Bangkok's mayor.
During his campaign, he promised to make the Thai capital "the city of joy, the city of happiness."
"The massage parlor business was [legal] under Thai law, and Thai law gave the license for the massage parlors," Chuwit said he told the embassy.
Chuwit's populist style earned him a seat in Parliament as deputy leader of the small Chat Thai Party.
"We never comment on individual visa applications," a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said when asked about Chuwit's complaint, which also appeared in a Thai newspaper on Thursday (Aug. 18), headlined: "U.S. Rejects Chuwit Visa Request."
Chuwit said the parliamentarians' trip went ahead without him on July 29 to New York to meet Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Agency officials, and to Los Angeles to meet the police department, plus a visit to Las Vegas to learn about the tourism industry.
Chuwit is notorious in Thailand because he was the country's biggest massage parlor tycoon and boasted that he employed 20,000 women while secretly compiling a list of police who allegedly accepted his bribes.
In a 2004 interview, he said he paid corrupt officials "about 200 million baht [five million U.S. dollars] in 10 years."
"I am not saying it is 'bribes'. I always say it is a 'convenience', to make my business convenient, to make my business smooth," he said at the time.
Chuwit insisted he has never been convicted of any crime, though he is currently on trial, charged by police for allegedly illegally demolishing bars, shops and other small businesses in Bangkok.
Hundreds of small business owners claimed Chuwit led a gang of thugs who looted and destroyed dozens of commercial establishments on trendy Sukhumvit Road amid suspicion that he wanted to oust the low-rent tenants and upgrade his property.
Chuwit denied the allegation, and accused army and police officers of running amok in the pre-dawn, January 2003 melee.
Amid the mayhem, Chuwit was arrested and spent a month in jail in May 2004, but was released to stand trial.
Despite rubbing the U.S. Embassy the wrong way, Chuwit remained optimistic about eventually visiting America.
"I still have two kids with my ex-wife" living in America, he said.
"The embassy rejected me for the official visa, so I applied for the tourist visa. There is no answer yet. My passport is still at the American Embassy. Maybe next week I'll call them."
Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 27 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is www.geocities.com/glossograph/