Super Pimp casts a long shadow over Bangkok. Wherever you turn, there he is; on television, the front page of newspapers and billboards, beetroot face contorted into its trademark twisted rictus, moustache aquiver with indignation and finger jabbing at some imagined outrage, ready to launch his next blow against corruption and injustice. One can almost imagine him swooping down from out of the sun, pimp cape flapping, patrolling the phalanx of fleshpots he built then disowned, eyes peeled for fresh perps. Every metropolis gets the superhero it deserves. For the City of Angels, a town built on graft and grease and dirt and deals, on tortuous alliances and labyrinthine loyalties, internecine squabbles, snout-in-trough sweeteners and baht pro quo back-scratching, who could be more suitable to step forward and save the day than the flawed, fabulously entertaining and crazy crusader that is Chuwit Kamolvisit? Thailand's former massage-parlour king and self-professed pimp-turned-member of parliament is revelling in his role as thorn in the government's side, whistleblower and stirrer in chief. After seeing his party win four seats in the recent election - a result that shocked many but revealed a deep-seated disgust among Bangkok's middle class with the two big parties: the defeated Democrats, still headed by faded poster boy Abhisit Vejjajiva; and the governing Puea Thai party, led by Yingluck Shinawatra - Chuwit is riding high. And with a deep-seated fear abroad that the blood-soaked belligerence of the red and yellow shirts may not yet be consigned to history's dustbin, locals are lapping up the comparatively light relief of the Chuwit sideshow while it lasts. The pimp tag is not something that bothers him. 'It's OK. I was a pimp,' he says. 'I did what I did in the past, I owned a lot of massage parlours. Of course, I sold them all, but I can't complain if people still want to call me a pimp. 'Anyway, a politician is worse than a pimp, worse than a whore. I adore the whore. The whore trades something that she owns, her body, while the politician trades the country and what belongs to the people. So I say, go ahead, call me a pimp. I am Chuwit, Super Pimp. Just don't call me a politician.' It's tempting to suggest he invest in a superfly mink-lined cape, perhaps a natty purple fedora and diamond-studded cane. As it is, his one concession to ghetto fabulous is his bull terrier, Motomoto, who was a prominent part of Chuwit's election efforts and featured on the most entertaining of his talk-of-the-town campaign posters. 'I used my dog as a symbol of honesty, loyalty, everything you can't get from the politician,' he says. His Lazarus-like return to politics surprised those who had written him off after his run at the Bangkok governorship in 2008 ended in ignominy and bruised knuckles. Chuwit lost his temper on live television and punched and kicked a popular TV anchor who had questioned his manliness. His continued existence amazes the many who believe it's a miracle he hasn't already been helped on to his next life by a hitman, given the fuming coterie of top cops, army generals and political powerbrokers he has embarrassed and cost large amounts of money. His latest mission is to expose Bangkok's illegal casinos, which has the entire city transfixed. Chuwit recently said he would divulge details of a new mega-casino, which he claims is a joint venture between a former cabinet minister and a wealthy Hong Kong investor. The Hong Kong connection was a shadowy casino specialist he would only name as 'Mr Tee', who, he said, had extensive experience in Macau and also in the casinos of the Cambodian border town of Poipet. His claims are backed by the deputy prime minister and new vice tsar, Chalerm Yoobamrung, who said the government was keeping a close eye on illegal casinos under construction and that it was aware of a 'significant' Hong Kong investment in Thailand's illegal gambling underworld. 'It's like a joint venture,' Chuwit explains. 'This guy, Mr Tee, he has the international casino connections and the expertise. The local partner secures the premises and deals with the police and other officials. Mr Tee makes sure the security system, the computer and gaming technology, the lighting, the equipment and most importantly the croupiers, dealers, counters, cashiers and other key staff are all experienced casino employees. Because they know very well, if you have staff you can't trust, they will rob you blind. 'To fit out one of these casinos takes up to two months and costs about 100 million baht [HK$25 million],' Chuwit says. 'But ... they make a nightly profit of about 10 million baht. Police are getting fat off them and it looks like I'm the only one with enough guts to tell it like it is. 'You've got high rollers, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, bok dang, croupiers in uniforms, computerised equipment, money counters ... but to police it's obviously all invisible.' The new casino is, he claims, located 500 metres from the Mengjai intersection in Huay Kwang - the same district in which many of Chuwit's massage parlours were located. He says the casino is ready to start operating and is one of at least four being developed with Hong Kong backing. This isn't the first casino-shaped bomb he has dropped. When Chuwit, leader of the Rak Thailand Party, upstaged Yingluck's maiden policy speech last month by telling parliament about a big illegal casino in Sutthisan Road, Bang Sue district, operating a stone's throw away from a major police station, the disclosure led to the transfer of three senior officers to inactive posts, a citywide crackdown and a political firestorm that claimed the scalp of national police chief Wichean Potephosree. Reacting to Chuwit's latest accusations, acting national police chief Priewpan Damapong said police had searched in Huay Kwang and could find no gambling facility or evidence of one under construction. When apprised of this by telephone, Chuwit goes into paroxysms of laughter. 'Of course they are going to say that. These are the same cops who couldn't see the Sutthisan casino that was operating a couple of doors down from a major police station.' Firing what may be a warning shot over Chuwit's bows, however, the Supreme Court has ruled to seize 3.4 million baht from the MP in connection with his suspected involvement in a prostitution ring. A lower court and subsequent appellate review had previously ruled in Chuwit's favour, but the high court took the view he had failed to verify how the assets in question were acquired. While Chuwit's defence team argued massage parlours were a legitimate business, the high court ruled there was enough evidence to support the suggestion the parlours were being used as a front for the sex trade, as evidenced by company records showing 112,559 baht spent on condoms alone in 2002. WHEN I MEET CHUWIT, on a drizzling afternoon, in the park that bears his name on Sukhumvit Soi 10, he is riding high on his first salvo about the illegal casinos but yet to launch his second strike. He has a gruff and affable charm but you sense a mercurial temper is simmering somewhere close to the surface. It's clear he gets a kick out of owning such a valuable piece of real estate and using it mainly as a private playground for his dog. 'Yes, it's true. You could say Motomoto is the owner here. One day I might do something here, but this is the last real prime undeveloped Sukhumvit Road site. So I am happy to sit on it for a while.' Chuwit says he was surprised to win as many as four seats in the election, but not surprised that he himself was comfortably elected. 'In my campaign, I presented myself as boring: Thai politicians play politics too much. They talk, talk, talk, but never do anything.' Fighting corruption was Chuwit's main campaign promise. 'Corruption in Thailand is supported by the officials, the politicians, the police, the system. Nobody wants to talk. It's a big issue in this country.' That might seem a bit rich coming from a man who gleefully detailed the staggering amount of bribes in cash and other largesse he paid to all manner of Thai officials to facilitate his business in its heyday. Chuwit strokes his moustache and looks to the heavens. 'Look, have you seen the movie Catch Me If You Can? You're not going to catch a crook by using a good guy. I am the one who knows the [corruption] process better than anyone. So I can make myself useful now to expose corruption.' It takes a thief to catch a thief? 'Exactly!' 'Corruption is so strong in Thailand, I don't think it will ever change. I'm not saying I can do anything. But I have vowed to try.' The last time Chuwit was making these kind of waves was in 2004, when he kept Bangkok on the edge of its seat with lurid revelations of police corruption relating to his massage-parlour business. The sensationally sordid saga of sex, bribes and videotape hit the front pages when Chuwit revealed he was paying senior officers from four of Bangkok's biggest police districts more than 12 million baht in bribes per month (not a bad sweetener when you consider the average constable's salary barely breaks four figures). Chuwit also spoke of how he showered the officers with Rolex watches shipped in from Hong Kong and crates of the finest French wine. He didn't name names, but said he had a list prepared to do just that in the event of his untimely demise, not to mention lurid details of the peculiar sexual proclivities of some of the city's top cops, some reportedly captured on camera. His tirade was prompted by what he deemed a betrayal by men he had paid to protect him. This followed an infamous January 2004 raid, in which armed thugs reduced to rubble a motley collection of bars and small businesses in what used to be known as Sukhumvit Square. The raid shocked Bangkok, embarrassed the police and angered the government. Chuwit had recently bought the land in question, although he denied authorising the raid and claimed it was orchestrated by a man he had agreed to lease the land to. (Later, in the face of a mounting furore, he magnanimously decided not to develop the land but to turn it into a public park; the one in which Motomoto is master.) A warrant was issued for Chuwit's arrest and he spent a month in jail pending formal charges. At the same time, he was charged with employing three underage girls at one of the six massage parlours operated by his Davis Group (Davis being the name he adopted while studying in the United States). 'Of course I felt betrayed,' Chuwit says. 'I felt crazy and frustrated. All the money I had paid to police and then they stabbed me in the back. So I decided to do what no one has dared before, to tell the Thai public what really goes on.' Things took their first weird turn when Chuwit went missing days after his initial revelations. Debate raged as to whether he was dead or had fled the country. Three days later, a wild-eyed Chuwit called a press conference in his pyjamas in a Bangkok hospital, shouting and rambling as he claimed he had been kidnapped, drugged and held hostage by masked men. Chief of Police Sant Sarutanont, before even beginning to investigate the claims, declared he didn't for a minute believe the tale and said Chuwit had staged the event to gain public sympathy. He also set up a fact-finding panel, which, within a matter of days, found there was no substance to the claims of massive bribe-taking by officers at Huay Kwang, Makkasan, Sutthisan and Wang Thonglang police stations. But Chuwit was just getting warmed up. He produced hundreds of pages of signatures, which he said belonged to police officers who received free services at his parlours, promp- ting then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a former policeman himself, to call for the entire Huay Kwang station to be transferred. Thaksin promised he'd clean up the force within six months. A panel was set up to probe police corruption, headed by Noppadol Somboonsup, director general of the Special Investig- ation Department, the Thai ver- sion of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation. Chuwit then began to feed the press with a daily diet of teasers and stunts. He released the initials of the senior officers who got the biggest bribes, prompting flurries of speculation. He then revealed a detailed list of bribes paid by rank, ranging from 80,000 baht per month for superintendents down to 2,000 baht for deputy chief inspectors. He claimed he had paid 300,000 baht in bribes to prison staff while incarcerated, including 5,000 baht for fried rice and 10,000 baht for a proper shower. He donated 13 coffins to a Bangkok charity and dedicated them to 'bad bribe-takers who don't accept the truth'. He appeared in one mass-circulation news- paper bare-chested and lifting dumbbells, to 'get in shape for the battle'. He tried and failed to present a list to the prime minister containing the names of 1,000 allegedly corrupt Bangkok police officers. And he took the press on a tour of 'Suite Five' at his Copacabana parlour, a Rococo riot of marble and gilt that could accommodate 15 guests and cost millions of baht to decorate. 'I lose hundreds of thousands a night on this suite alone,' he complained. 'It's always full of police, who want free drinks and free girls.' If the figurative spotlight wasn't enough, Chuwit then took to the boards for a one-night talk show at the Bangkok Playhouse, which was an instant sell-out despite its somewhat self-pitying title: Chuwit: Alone and Shabby. He penned a quickie book, The Golden Bath, in which he reminisced about his younger years as a playboy, trying to spend as much of his family's textile fortune as he could while fancying himself as the Thai Hugh Hefner. 'Yes, I was a playboy,' Chuwit chuckles, as we stroll the lush manicured paths of his park. His father was born in Hong Kong and his mother was Thai. After returning from San Diego, in the US, with a master of business administration qualification, Chuwit was eager to put his newly learned theories into practice. 'I was 30 years old. I wanted to be surrounded with girls. What's wrong? Making big money. So what? 'I liked massage parlours, but the old ones used to be very old-fashioned. It was all rush rush, like going to McDonald's. Maybe men don't want McDonald's. Maybe they want a Chinese banquet. To relax, listen to music, have a drink, take your time. So I changed the whole idea to make the massage parlours more of an entertainment venue.' He laughs. 'My places were better than anything you'd get in Vegas. I went to a lap-dancing place in Las Vegas once. You had to listen to a 10-min- ute speech on the rules: 'You cannot touch the body, you cannot do this or that.' You can drink, though. And tip. I thought it was ridiculous. 'So all I did was give men what they want.' He fixes me with his steely superhero squint from beneath his famously furrowed brow. 'The sex business is not wrong. People are wrong.' Chuwit made a modest fortune in real estate after returning from the US and bought his first massage-parlour licence in the late 1980s. 'It was good for 106 rooms. I had the land, I had the licence, so I opened Victoria's Secret, around Ratchadapisek and Rama 9 roads. Boy, did I start making money. Do you believe it? I was making a million baht in cash every night. And, from the first day, the police were there with their hands out.' He opened Emmanuelle, then Honolulu, then Copacabana, all of them sumptuous exercises in nouveau-riche excess, where some of Thailand's most beautiful women sat wearing numbers behind glass walls, waiting to be chosen by the rich and powerful. 'Is it prostitution? Of course. I provide the classy place, the beautiful girls, the booze, the atmosphere. When someone goes to a room, you can't stop them having sex. But prostitution is illegal, so none of it works without the cops looking after you.' An astute political animal, Chuwit goes out on quite a limb by predicting Thaksin will be back in Thailand by the end of the year. 'Look at them all now,' he says, referring to the Puea Thai party movers and shakers. 'They are moving all the pieces around the board, getting the right people into place to force an amnesty and secure his return.' Chuwit swears he no longer has any interest, financial or moral, in the flesh trade and says his only business these days is his hotel group, owner of boutique property The Davis, and his real estate holdings. Last time I interviewed him, seven years ago, the Anti-Money Laundering Office had just frozen his assets. This time, it's the court order - although 3.5 million baht is chump change to someone with a fortune estimated at US$250 million. We continue to wander about the park. Joggers, strollers and office refugees beam and rush up to say 'hello', 'we love you', 'we voted for you' and 'keep the bastards honest'. It's bizarre given his history as a virtuoso corruptor but there's no denying he has tapped a nerve. His macho image and undeniable charisma probably don't hurt either. As he chats with another admirer, I glance around the gardens and wonder if he has some souped up superhero car in an underground garage, or a pole to slide down to a graft-busting nerve centre. So what is the next crusade for Super Pimp once all the illegal casinos have been exposed? 'I'm not superman. I'm not a hero,' he says. 'People think I can do something but really, all I can do is speak up. Talk about the things other people are scared to. In Thailand, everybody knows, but nobody talks. There are lots of issues for me to talk about. Corruption. Drugs. 'But it's all about timing and balance. I can't be in the news every day. People will get sick of me. So I will pick my battles and know when it's time to speak and when it's time to stop.' Chuwit turned 50 in August and he admits it was a milestone. 'You do stop and think about life. See over there on that table? There is a catalogue of yachts. I look at it every day. One day, I will buy a yacht. That is my goal. That's happiness. There is no happiness in politics.' Perhaps not, but politics may be all that's keeping him alive. 'Yes, that's true, I'm in the spotlight now and to an extent my high profile protects me. When I'm not in that spotlight, I will have to leave Thailand. It will be too risky here. Life is cheap and I have too many enemies. You can hire a hitman for 200,000 baht. So I have to be focused all the time. It's the only way to survive. If you lose that focus, you die.' It's hard out there for a pimp, especially a super one. And what of that Hong Kong-funded illegal casino? 'Stay tuned,' is all Chuwit will add.