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Thai soapy massages meet politics

Can Bangkok’s former “Brothel King" bring political tension to a happy ending?

This is my main policy. Corruption in Thailand, it’s like its own culture. Very difficult to change. Say you’re driving a car and the police stop you. You're in a hurry. You give 100 baht to the police so he can go buy some coffee. Well, in your country, this is absolute corruption. You'll get a second charge. You'll go to jail.

For Thai people, it's normal. Society accepts it. It's comfortable and convenient. It's a habit, just like when Thai people walk past a spirit house and do this [clasps hands in respectful gesture used to honor the dead]. So you have to change this culture. Step by step. Society, like in Thailand or Asia, everyone runs in a group. In the U.S., you sit at a bar to drink alone and nobody blames you. But Thai people doing this? They’ll say, “What’s wrong with you? Are you broken-hearted?”

Thai society drinks together. We do everything together. We split our fish. We split our curry. In Western society, it's one fish for you, one fish for you, one fish for you. This is why it’s hard to change things in Thailand. It’s difficult for people like me to stand alone.

But how exactly are you going to fix police corruption?

You catch some official, he goes to jail. Let’s say 10 years. Then society will say, “Really? Now someone’s really in jail for corruption!”

But last time you criticized powerful people, you reported being kidnapped and you ended up in the hospital. Your assets were also taken. Aren’t you scared something bad will happen again?

I’m never scared. They took away my assets but then returned them to me. I was kidnapped, but I came back. When you have a gun to your head, you don't expect you'll see your kids again. But I still survived. Now, I’m back. This is Thai society. I’m used to it. I know how to survive without a bodyguard. I take taxis and motorbikes alone like anyone else.

In your election posters, you look like a tough guy. Like an angry man.

It's just political marketing. You know, for the next set of posters, in the next election, I think I’ll be smiling. People want politicians to be the perfect guy. Lovely family, perfect smile, very happy. But when you see someone like me? With a serious face? At least you know I take politics seriously.

People say, “Mr. Chuvit, you're the massage parlor king. Why get into politics?” Because politics has a lot of dirty people. I'm like the massage parlor. I'm gonna clean them all up. Thai people don't study politics, so they don't remember what politicians promise but never do. Thai people are always “jai dee” [good-natured] and then they forget. We have to be more serious.

In the last election, you were doing well. But then there was an incident in which you beat up a TV anchorman who insulted you. That hurt you in the polls. Do you regret that now?