'Soapy massage' parlours draining city's water

'Soapy massage' parlours draining city's water

Inspectors pay visit to Long Beach 'love boat'

Police and other officials inspect the water tanks at the Long Beach Massage facility in Huai Kwang district. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Police and other officials inspect the water tanks at the Long Beach Massage facility in Huai Kwang district. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

A massage parlour in Bangkok described as being "shaped like love boat" welcomed a team of inspectors Wednesday amid suspicions it has been illegally consuming groundwater.

Bangkok is famous for having hundreds of so-called "soapy massage" venues that often involve prostitution and require the use of vast amounts of water for showers and baths.

The preliminary investigation into Long Beach Massage in Huai Kwang district comes one week after a similar inspection of Victoria's Secret Massage.

That parlour was raided earlier in the month to expose human trafficking, illicit sex involving minors and alleged graft.

Authorities also collected water samples from 80 other venues for lab tests in recent days.

Suwat Inthasit, deputy commander of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, said the tests at Long Beach suggested the illegal use of groundwater.

The results showed the level of contaminants -- or total dissolved solids -- was 700 microsiemens per centimetre, several times higher than the level found in tap water, he said.

Pol Col Suwat said the officials suspected Long Beach may have been illegally drawing the water for years and were trying to locate exactly where it was drawn from.

The operators of the parlour, if found guilty, could face up to six months in jail, a 20,000 baht fine or both for violating the Artesian Water Act 1977.

Water samples from a nearby food shop were also collected to determine the level of contaminants. The findings showed them to be 364 µS/cm.

According to Pol Col Suwat, officials from Huai Kwang district also inspected the building housing the Long Beach entertainment venue to ensure it complied with the Building Control Law and found no transgressions.

However, he said the number of rooms at the premises, 74, did not match that specified in its registration, just 52.

He said the extra rooms were unused and local police would investigate.

Water samples were also collected from 82 other outlets on Tuesday, a source said, adding the initial findings showed three or four had high levels of contaminants, indicating the use of groundwater.

Tests were conducted to gauge the water quality inside Victoria's Secret Massage's lavatories.

The results showed the level of contaminants was twice as high as regular tap water at 400 µS/cm.

The Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) has frozen 100 million baht worth of assets belonging to the owners of Victoria's Secret Massage and several other parties believed to be connected to human trafficking activities at the parlour. They believe a network may have been supplying illegal workers to a variety of parlours in the city and provinces.

Department of Special Investigation (DSI) deputy chief Songsak Raksaksakul said the office is investigating the money trail of Kampol Wirathepsuporn and Nipa Wirathepsuporn, among others.

An informed source said the DSI has forwarded the financial information of various suspects including more than 10 bank accounts to the Amlo so it can take proper action.

According to the source, part of the money was withdrawn from those accounts before the warrants were issued for the arrests of Mr Kampol and Ms Nipa.

Victoria's Secret Massage, located in the Rama IX area of Bang Kapi district, was raided on Jan 12.

The sting exposed the illegal hiring of minors and migrant workers and shone a light on what is claimed to be systemic bribery and corruption involving police and high-ranking officials.

It also exposed links to a crime syndicate believed responsible for orchestrating human trafficking on a larger scale.

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