The Planking Politician
A few years ago I was staying in an upmarket hotel in Bangkok, The Davis. In the morning, at breakfast, I was rather surprised by the very large number of fat, balding, ugly westerners accompanied by their by-the-hour girlfriends. I later discovered that the hotel was owned by Chuwit Kamolvisit (ชูวิทย์ กมลวิศิษฎ์), a brothel owner.
As a young man Chuwit studied for an MBA at an American university. He applied what he’d learnt there to his chosen business line: selling sex. He built luxurious “massage parlours” with added facilities such as karaoke rooms and bars and charged a higher than normal price for the services of his working girls. He also marketed his business’ services very effectively with large posters featuring attractive blondes. His MBA paid off, and soon he was Thailand’s largest brothel owner with six establishments engaging around 600 women.
Chuwit and Friends
Of course, prostitution is illegal in Thailand. However, if you pay the right bribes to the right policemen you don’t generally have a problem. However, in 2003 things started to go wrong for Chuwit. He decided he wanted to redevelop a plot of prime land he owned known as Sukhumwit Square. However, it was already rented out to a collection of bars, shops, a laundry and a travel agent. To solve this problem 600 goons were hired to raze the area. The raid took place very early on a Sunday morning; the tenants hadn’t been notified in advance. Chuwit was arrested. He denied all responsibility and was, after a month, released from jail.
Chuwit was incensed with how he’d been treated, so he released details of the bribes he’d paid to senior policemen whom he named. He claimed he’d forked 200 million Baht over the previous ten years (that’s about £4 million at current exchange rates). He also said that certain top policemen received free sex at his establishments – something confirmed by some of his women.
The police weren’t too happy about the revelations, so they launched a series of raids against his establishments and froze some of his bank accounts. The raids weren’t good for business, and Chuwit promptly sold three of his whorehouses.
In 2006 the three year trial for razing Sukhumwit Square finally concluded. Chuwit was found not guilty, but one of his corporate lawyers was convicted of having paid the goons and sentenced to 8 months in prison.
Rather than press ahead with developing the park, Chuwit had it converted at great expense into a public park which he named after himself, Chuwit Garden. Originally the park was open for 13 hours a day. However, when policemen started lazing around the park during the middle of the day he decided only to open the park for a few hours in the morning and a few hours late afternoon. Now during the middle of the day it’s the private playground of his beloved dog, Motomoto, a white bull terrier.
Chuwit and Friend
Curiously there’s a plaque at the entrance to the park which reads:
“Dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ
29th August 2005
To God be the glory”
Perhaps Chuwit got his interest in Christianity from his ex-wife, who was American, or maybe from his father, who was Hong Kong Chinese. It’s not known.
Chuwit has long had political ambitions. He’s twice run for Governor of Bangkok, campaigning against police and government corruption, though came third on both occasions. His attempt at office in 2008 probably wasn’t helped when he rather publicly beat up a journalist who’d insulted him.
In 2005 he was elected as an MP, though was subsequently disqualified on the technicality that he hasn’t been a member of his political party for 90 days before the general election.
This year he’s running for parliament again. Unlike the normally bland political posters that clutter the street Chuwit’s are rather characterful. He usually looks angry and frustrated …
… or possibly badly constipated.
Not left, not right. Straight ahead.
He often uses props such as a steering wheel (above), samurai sword, gun, axe, or (as below) a baby:
Vote for Chuvit. Politics is like nappies: the more often you change them, the better things get.
Anyway, ever in search of publicity Chuwit, decided to join the planking craze. Here he is a few days ago in Sri Racha on the campaign trail:
In what is a rather bland election campaign Chuwit Kamolvisit does rather stand out.