Thailand: The MP, the investigator and the masseuse
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Thailand: The MP, the investigator and the masseuse

By Dan Waites

As Bangkok Pundit blogged earlier today, Tharit Pengdit, the chief of Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), is doing everything he can to put red shirt leader and opposition MP Jatuporn Prompan back in jail. Following last week’s censure debate, in which Jatuporn accused the government of colluding to kill people, Tharit and the DSI will file new charges against the Pheu Thai MP, who is already accused of terrorism related to last year’s protests. Bangkok Pundit examines the charges in today’s post, describing at least one as “simply astonishing in its ridiculousness”.

Tharit seems to be pursuing Jatuporn with an almost fanatical zeal, his mission to lock up the outspoken MP going beyond professional duty and into the realms of personal vendetta. While the politicisation of the DSI is a serious subject for another day, I thought I’d draw attention to a story that was scarcely mentioned in the English-language press last year, but that might shed some light on why things have gotten so personal between the DSI chief and Pheu Thai’s chief mudslinger.

In mid-August, Jatuporn made a cryptic remark to the media on the subject of the DSI chief. Tharit was somehow connected to the number “161”, Jatuporn said, adding that he knew “what he was doing on Sri Ayuthaya Road”.


Red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan. Pic: AP.

Tharit’s response was quick. Congratulating Jatuporn on his information-gathering skills, the DSI chief admitted that “161” was the number of his masseuse at “Chavala Massage”, a “bath, steam, massage” (อาบอบนวด) establishment on Bangkok’s Sri Ayuthaya Road. Such establishments are known to provide more than just massage, if you know what I mean.

Tharit admitted to enjoying 161’s services “once or twice a month”, though he insisted she gave him nothing more than a traditional Thai massage. His response, as published by M Thai (my translation):

I see that it’s a funny story, because it’s a personal issue and I don’t care about this sort of thing. I don’t just have a regular traditional Thai masseuse. I have a regular fortune teller too. And I accept that Mr Jatuporn is very good at finding information. I’m addicted to traditional massage, but I’m not into bathing, I just have a massage.

Jatuporn replied:

As Mr Tharit said it was only a Thai traditional massage, let’s have Mr Tharit go and explain the story to his wife. But the person who gave the information to me didn’t explain it in the way Mr Tharit said. I want Mr Tharit to prepare himself, because I’ve been investigating his history and found that there’s a lot of stuff, and I’ll reveal it in a few days.

Thailand’s English-language national papers, which tend to avoid “tabloid” fare, didn’t pick up on the story. But Thai readers got to hear more. Khao Sod newspaper tracked down the masseuse, a 55-year-old woman the paper gave the pseudonym “Oy”, and gleefully printed more details of the services available at the parlour. “Oy” said she had seen Tharit in the newspapers but was too polite to ask who he was. She said many of the parlour’s customers were important people who went there to relieve stress. She thought the news was likely to scare many of them off, however.

The likes of “Chavala Massage” can be found all over Thailand, but stories about public figures being caught going to them seem to be rare. Presumably it’s the kind of mud-slinging fight that nobody wants to start – because everyone would end up dirty. But Jatuporn broke that rule. It can’t have endeared him to the DSI chief.