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|Leader of Rak Thailand Party|
February 18, 2010
August 29, 1960 |
|Political party||Rak Thailand Party|
|Spouse(s)||Kate W. Johnson (div.)
Chuwit Kamolvisit (Thai: ชูวิทย์ กมลวิศิษฎ์; rtgs: Chuwit Kamonwisit; August 29, 1961 – ) is a controversial Thai politician who was once the country's biggest massage parlor owner. After an arrest in 2003, he publicly claimed that he paid large bribes to many Thai police officers. He then sold some of his massage parlors, formed his own political party and unsuccessfully ran for Bangkok governor in August 2004. In 2005 he was elected for a four-year term to the Thai House of Representatives, but in 2006 the Constitutional Court removed him from parliament. In October 2008 he again ran for governor of Bangkok as an independent but was not elected. In the July 2011 general election his party won four seats in the House of Representatives. He used the pseudonym Davis Kamol on occasion.
Early life and education
Chuwit is the son of a Hong Kong-born, Chinese father and a Thai mother. He graduated from the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy at Thammasat University, and then earned a Master of Business Administration degree in San Diego, California, United States.
Business and allegations
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Chuwit controls the Davis Group, a business that consists of six Bangkok massage parlours, located near Ratchadaphisek Road, which employ around 600 women: Copacabana, Victoria's Secret, Honolulu, Hi Class, Emmanuelle and Julianna. The massage parlors cater mainly to wealthy Thais and operate within a "grey area" of the law: massage parlors are legal, but prostitution is not. Prices are from 2,000 to 5,000 baht for a two-hour session. The Davis Group's holdings also include the Davis Bangkok Hotel and a shopping mall on Sukhumvit Road, Soi 24.
"Sukhumvit Square" incident
In January 2003, Chuwit was accused of hiring around 600 men to raze several bars, shops, a laundry and a travel agency on "Sukhumvit Square", a plot of land he owns on Sukhumvit, Soi 10. This was an apparent attempt to remove the low-rent tenants so that the land could be developed. The tenants believed they had valid leases from another company and were not notified of the raid, which took place very early on a Sunday morning. Chuwit was arrested and spent a month in jail. He denied responsibility and was finally released on bail.
Angry at his arrest, Chuwit publicly released the amounts of bribes he had regularly paid in the past, along with the names of the high-ranking police recipients. The total amount of the bribes was 200 million baht over 10 years, but has since suggested it was closer to 12 million baht. He also claimed that "VIP" policemen received free service in his parlors, an allegation that was later confirmed in interviews with some of the masseuses. Following an investigation, several prominent policemen were suspended or demoted. Chuwit also accused his prison wardens of corruption, as they accepted bribes from him.
Shortly after his corruption revelations, Chuwit disappeared for two days. He later claimed he was abducted and abused by police; however, others believe he had staged his own disappearance. Chuwit's massage parlors were then raided and some of his bank accounts were frozen. He was also charged with procuring minors for prostitution because three masseues under the age of 18 were found working in one of his parlors. He was acquitted in June 2004, as the court found the girls had used forged ID cards and Chuwit was not held responsible. During the same month, Chuwit sold three of his parlors, saying that police harassment had made operations difficult for him.
In a February 2004 interview, Chuwit claimed that he had paid Thai policemen to clear his Sukhumvit Soi 10 property. When the issue became public, the police allegedly demanded more money, which he refused to pay. They turned against him, and he revealed his bribe payments as a response.
In July 2006, after a three-year trial, Chuwit and 130 associates were acquitted of the razing charges; however, a corporate lawyer was sentenced to eight months in prison for paying members of the Army Corps of Engineers to destroy the businesses. Chuwit converted the area on Sukhumvit, Soi 10 into a public park named "Chuvit Garden" for about 100 million baht.
Chuvit Garden is estimated to be more than $160 million or 5,000 million baht
In September 2003, Chuwit formed his own political party, called First Thai Nation. In April 2004 he announced that he was running for governor of Bangkok. He planned to spend about 20 million Baht on his campaign, with corruption in the police and government as his main campaign topic. The Bangkok governor elections were held on August 29, 2004. Chuwit placed third, with some 300,000 votes, or about 16% of the vote.
In May 2005 he began hosting a weekly call-in radio show, during which he listened to complaints from the public.
In January 2006, however, the Constitutional Court revoked his MP status. A candidate must be a member of a political party for at least 90 days before the general election and the court found that Chuwit had not joined Chart Thai in time.
In 2008, he again declared his candidacy for the Governorship of Bangkok. As was the case in 2004, he placed third. He admitted that his campaign may have suffered when he beat up a journalist who supposedly described him as "unmanly".
In May 2011 Chuwit formed a new political party, "Love Thailand" (Rak Prathetthai). In the 2011 Thai general election, the party won four seats in the House of Representatives. He had campaigned as a protest candidate and anti-corruption watchdog.
In September 2012, the Bangkok Post published an audio recording of a lecture given by Chuwit at Hatyai University in southern Thailand. Chuwit spoke to the students about how Thai police make money from the sex industry, and the Post noted that the topic is "a subject not normally taught in university courses."
Chuwit is divorced from his American wife, who lives in the US with their two children. His daughter, Trakarnta Kamolvisit (Tah or Thaia), went to Millfiled School, United Kingdom, and studies Economics at University of San Francisco.
- The brothel king's revenge, The Guardian, 21 February 2004
- Chuwit avoids conviction, The Nation, 14 July 2006
- A New Park and a Mall Facelift, Bangkok Dazed, 24 July 2006
- Chuwit ruled out as MP by top court, The Nation, 27 January 2006
- Encounter, The Nation, 3 October 2008
- "Chuwit launches Love Thailand Party". Bangkok Post. 12 May 2011.
- "Thailand elections yield surprise gains for former brothel tycoon". The Guardian. 5 July 2011.
- "Corruption 101: Prostitution & the police" (Audio upload). Bangkok Post. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- "Thai soapy massages meet politics". Global Post. May 26, 2010.
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