Tuesday, July 16, 2024

His anti-corruption crusade has made him a household name in Thailand, but Chuwit Kamolvisit would be the first to tell you that his own life has been neither admirable nor one others should emulate. A self-professed “super pimp” — and known to others as “the godfather of sex” — Mr. Chuwit, 62, once owned six massage parlors in Bangkok where 2,000 women worked for him.
His start as a whistle-blower, some two decades ago, relied on his insider’s knowledge of bribery schemes. To get the authorities to look the other way, he says he gave police officers cash delivered in black bags, as well as Rolex watches and free services in his establishments.
The arrangement suited him for years. But when he was arrested in 2003, his detention was a clear signal he had lost his police protection. So he decided to speak out. He held a news conference where he revealed that he had a list of more than 1,000 names of cops he had bribed over the years.
In a conflict-averse society that has almost no culture of whistle-blowing, Mr. Chuwit’s sensational descriptions of official malfeasance captured the country’s attention, and he has largely held it since.
Mr. Chuwit tends to not whisper — he growls, loudly, and smashes things, literally. A lean man with slicked-back white hair and sunglasses that he never took off during a two-hour interview, Mr. Chuwit has enthralled the Thai public for years with the litany of evidence he has presented against corrupt police officers and government officials.
Mr. Chuwit revealed that he had a list of more than 1,000 names of cops he had bribed over the years.
He formed his own political party and made a run for the governor of Bangkok. Mr. Chuwit is pessimistic that his efforts are making a dent in Thailand’s corruption.
In August, he accused Srettha Thavisin, a real estate mogul and at the time the front-runner for the prime minister’s job, of colluding to commit tax fraud during a land sale. He advises against anyone taking up his whistle-blowing legacy.

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