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Thai Politician Chuwit Kamolvisit: A Man. His Dog. Their Park.

Thai Politician Chuwit Kamolvisit: A Man. A Dog. A Park.

Chuwit Kamolvisit is one colourful Thai politician….

It’s party time in Thailand! And who living here can miss it? The country is slathered with campaign posters on light poles, along highways and sidewalks, and stuffed under the Skytrain even. Weekly, new posters go up, entertaining expats and locals alike. And what Thai party is knocking the socks off the rest? The one-man show known as Chuwit Kamolvisit (ชูวิทย์ กมลวิศิษฎ์).

And I’m not saying that other Thai politicians are uninteresting (Sonthi has two wives). And I won’t go into the predicted winners even. I’m talking design and marketing alone.

Chris Baker: After a misspent youth, Chuvit Kamolvisit took a degree in business management in the US, and then applied two basic principles of modern mass marketing to retailing sex. First, he created megastores, selling various products (karaoke, massage, etc) on a large scale. Second he invested in standout advertising, featuring massive blowups of blonde women. It made him very rich. He uses the same professional approach to presenting himself in politics.

Not counting the yellow PAD ‘vote NO’ posters (coming to you soon), when you compare Chuvit’s campaign with the rest of the Thai candidates, his posters shout out loud, leaving their dull efforts far far behind.

Besides boredom at their design choices, the only emotion I felt when comparing the other Thai political posters to Chuvit’s was snarky amusement after noticing that the female candidates were decked out as 1970’s airline stewardesses. And what’s up with that?

Chuvit’s poster: the man and his dog…

Ah. And before I get too far down on this post to for you to easily scroll back up to see, and because this is a learning Thai blog, let me sneak in some Thai for you. The above poster is as below:

เมื่อคุณต้องการความซื่อสัตย์ VOTE 5 ชูวิทย์
mêua kun dtông gaan kwaam sêusàt Chuvit
When you need (want) honesty VOTE 5 Chuvit

พรรครักประเทศไทย
pák rák-bprà-tâyt-sà-tai
Love Thailand Party

บัญชีรายชื่อทุกจังหวัดทั่วประเทศ
ban-chee raai-chêu túk jang-wàt tûa bprà-tâyt
Roster, every province, countrywide (everyone in the country).

Chuvit’s campaign is all about anti-corruption, honesty, and running as the other guy. Throwing a dog into the mix infers that a dog is loyal and… you got it. Fair enough. In a later post I’ll share Chuvit’s other campaign posters but in this one I aim to talk about his wonderfully honest white bull terrier, Motomoto (โมโตโมโต้). And Chuvit’s park. His infamous park.

Chuvit’s park: the history, the drama, Thai-style…

The tranquil Chuvit Park is located in Bangkok on Sukhumvit Soi 10. In a previous life the property was known as Sukhumvit Square and housed thriving businesses (120 bars and…).

That was until Chuvit decided on a clean sweep:

wikipedia: In January 2003, Chuwit was accused of having hired some 600 men to raze several bars, shops, a laundry and a travel agency on “Sukhumvit Square”, a plot of land he owns at Sukhumvit Soi 10.

Taking advantage of the moment, the then PM and former policeman Thaksin Shinawatra waded in (ah, the irony of it all):

atimes.com: “We will not tolerate mafia rule in Thailand,” he warned. The government will make no exceptions” when it comes to punishing those involved in the Sukhumvit Square “anarchy”, Thaksin told the public and law-enforcement authorities. “No matter who they are or who they are connected with, the law will be applied against them. Influential people cannot use the police to solve this issue.”

Hah! And Thaksin’s mention of the Thai police was exactly the opening Chuvit needed:

wikipedia: Angry that police dared to arrest him, he [Chuvit] publicly released the amounts of bribes he had regularly paid in the past, along with names of the high ranking police recipients. He put the total amount of bribes at 200 million baht over 10 years, but has since suggested it was closer to 12 million baht. He also claimed that “VIP” policemen received free service in his parlors (an allegation that was later confirmed by interviewing some of the masseuses.

Chuwit claimed that he had paid Thai policemen to clear his Sukhumvit Soi 10 property. When the issue became public, the police had allegedly demanded more money, which he refused to pay. They turned against him, and he revealed his bribe payments in response.

Checkmate!

There’s way more to this story – TiT – but what a big kerfluffle surrounding such a quiet little park on Suk!

You can’t discuss Chuvit without mentioning the history behind the park so to dress up this post and prepare for the other Chuvit posters following, I headed to Suk to see what photos I could snap.

Chuwit Park on Sukumvit soi 10….

Except for one competitor’s poster, the street in front of the park was covered with Chuvit’s campaign posters. In order to get photos of the Chuvit poster lineup I had my taxi driver drop me off a little before Chuvit park. And yes, you got it right, to take that photo I am standing in traffic, in the middle of Sukumvit road, around noon. It took four tries with me jumping in front of oncoming cars to get that particular shot so that’s as good as it gets.

Thai Politician Chuwit Kamolvisit: Chuvit ParkPM Abhisit’s. Unlike Chuvit, Abhisit lives in one place and his home is protected by the Thai army. The army have closed down the area on occasion, causing hardship to Abhisit’s neighbours (some who are trying to run businesses).

When I pointed out that the protection was only needed because the Red Shirts harassed the PM at his home, my driver shrugged in response. Conversation over.

white bull terrier.

bangkoklive.co.cc quoting Chuvit (no longer online): Dogs show our honesty. Dogs, we bark when the burglars are coming. Dogs, they never know that I am beautiful that I am handsome, that I have money in my pocket. Dogs never change the party. So dog is good. Why not? Dog is better than someone, better than some politicians, I believe.

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

24 Comments

  1. Great post on the most interesting candidate of this election. But I particularly like the poster of Chuvit holding a baby and saying something like politicians need to be changed as well. The park is particularly interesting. I once spotted a sign dedicating the park to Jesus Christ. Can’t find the photo I took right now. But I’d like to know if it’s still there.

  2. Thanks Will. I have the rest (I believe) of Chuvit’s posters translated and waiting. I attempted to add them all to this post but it was too long.

    Yes, the park is dedicated to Jesus. It’s chiseled into the marble on the front gate, right by the original opening / closing times. Perhaps I should have added it here (I just might still).

  3. Thank you for this – had been wondering about Chuwit. Got quite interested in him after seeing the poster with him pretending to pull his hair out. It’s still my favourite. Haven’t seen the dog poster yet – but am very tempted to visit the park and see the poster line up…

  4. You are welcome Michelle. I was wondering about Chuvit too (back when he was in the race for Mayor of BKK). I found that a sure way for me to learn is to write about what I want to know. I might not find everything, or be able to dig too deep, or even write about if it I do find something deep, but it all helps.

    The dog and child posters are on Vibhavadi rangsit, heading towards Ladprao. One day they weren’t there and the next they were.

    From the looks of the groupings around town, his staff are sent out with one or two of a poster design and that’s why we see so many of one in one area, but nothing elswhere. It’d be better if they mixed them up more.

    I’m out again today to see if he’s come up with anything new.

  5. Will, I’ve edited the Jesus photo into the post. Thank you for nudging me about it as the dedication is indeed a curiosity.

  6. Great post Catherine. Ploy says she is going to vote for him.
    I can’t wait for your post on the NO vote campaign.

  7. Thanks Dan :-) I keep hearing about just the two candidates but a lot of people are saying that Chuvit’s the politician they will vote for.

    I believe I found a new (to me) NO vote campaign poster today but a tuk tuk and the rain messed up the shot. I’ll go back tomorrow (and hopefully it wasn’t an underwear ad instead of PAD).

  8. Dan, what a fabulous photo of Chuvit. Thanks for sharing :-)

    Chuvit’s twitter account just posted a link to photos of T-shirts for Chuvit, Abhisit, and Shinawatra: http://www.oknation.net/blog/nun2504/2011/06/14/entry-2

    To follow Chuvit (or whoever is controlling the account): @VOTE5_CHUVIT

  9. this is a quality article.

  10. Very impressive research here. Getting in the way of danger— digging up stuff people want to forget— entertaining stuff. I hope all of the politicians are under that much scrutiny and wonder what we’d do with all the dirt that would be found. Nice work. For better or worse this is one of the most interesting candidates and I look forward to seeing what you post on his campaign posters (don’t forget the viral videos lol).

  11. Thanks Dwight :-) It was an entertaining time (except for standing in the middle of Suk). The rest of his posters will be coming at the end of the week (Thursday or Friday). I’ve had a great time watching his videos as well. When I can get the time anyway – it’s been a rushed week.

    I was out today looking at posters around town. I was able to get two more of the yellow PAD posters but I believe I have everything except for one of Chuvit’s and that’s online.

  12. Cat, a wonderful post as only you could write it!

    Politics are in the air, I’ve spent some quality time at a particular Chuvit property…the park. It’s a very beautiful little place in the middle of the bustling city, although I never saw chuvit, his dog or any lazy policemen.

    I wish the political scene in Pattaya was a bit more like Bangkok, as it is every morning I am awoken by trucks with loudspeakers driving up my soi and they always come in three speaking over each other…grrrr.

  13. Catherine your post delivers a hard choice. To face a bull terrier who has been baking in the morning sunshine or stand in the middle of Bangkok’s moving traffic. I think I’d take the music of the horns every time.

    Chuwit Kamolvisit is a character, what kind of person closes a park to the police then lets his dog run around it whilst it’s shut. One very individual and determined man with a big pot of bucks.

    I couldn’t help but notice in the close-up pictures of Motomoto he has a reddish tinge to him. Must be a big Shinawatra fan.

  14. Great post. I’d love to get this guy on the podcast, I’m sure it’d be an interesting conversation. :D

  15. Talen, thanks :-) The trucks with loudspeakers are roaming around BKK but they aren’t as noisy as they’ve been in the past. Or maybe I’m not paying attention? Or maybe my soi is no one politician’s target? I personally like how Chuvit is campaigning – in a sidecar.

    Martyn, you are a guy after my own heart. Dogs are unpredictable. Cars are too but dogs are scarier. In the pics I took of Motomoto he changes colour when he’s in the sun. Just like me, only I can go a bright red.

    Greg, why don’t you ask him? He’s got almost as many signs in English as in Thai so he does have an interest in making his message known to the English speaking community. I can’t figure out if he’s going for the English speaking press, or for the young Thai generation who now speak English (some better than their Thai), or if the English signs are for his western kids. Or all three. It’s something I was wondering about when I started writing the follow up post due to go live on Friday early. Or Thursday late. Whenever I stop editing it anyway…

  16. Emma Goldman was right: “If voting could change anything it would be illegal!” Of course, we expats are not expected to voice our political opinions even though we all have them.

    Chuwit is the most interesting of a poor lot. However, my wife pointed out she could never vote for a man who got rich on the backs of our daughters.

    I have liked previous Chuwit posters; these new ones are not as creative. I like the Vote No best this time around. The images embody almost all pols.

    Unfortunately, if you vote, the know-nothings will be elected; if you don’t vote, the know-nothings will still be elected!

    Great post, Catherine!

  17. I’m divided about the Vote NO posters. PAD are divided too. Some Yellow Shirts don’t want anyone to vote, some don’t believe in democracy (peasants shouldn’t be allowed a vote), and some are running in this political race.

    I don’t have any strong political opinions to note. If I had the chance to vote I’d look at the many issues. But I can’t. So right now the only issue I see as pressing is education. Why no one is running on a platform pushing education is a mind-boggler.

  18. Well, I’m not sure about the rest of Thailand but up North. Chuwit is considered crazy. And posters of Abhisit have their faces punched out.

    A great post, Cat! It bears saying again. Now I’m moving on to the poster interpretations :P

  19. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I thought I’d jump in and take a stab at the dedication to Jesus at the park. From what I understand he attended a Christian college in the US and prayed to receive Jesus as Savior during that time. It was Campbell University in North Carolina (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell_University) However he later became a “prodigal son” after his divorce from his Canadian wife. He went astray & discarded his faith then returned to Thailand to open the massage empire after making lots of money in US real estate in the 80’s. He got the massage parlor idea from something he saw in the US. He later repented of this lifestyle, sold off the businesses, and tried to return to the straight and narrow after becoming known throughout Thailand as the “super pimp.” He claims to have paid 300k a month to police in bribes until they began turning on him. His anti-corruption political stance could be a harkening back to his old Christian roots or his newly reformed faith. He probably keeps his faith quiet because of the seeming mockery of what he used to be and do and the fact that he lives in a majority Buddhist land. But who better to lead the charge against corruption than a man who used to be the poster child for it? If he is a true Christian now, at least he has the Bible verse 2 Corinthians 5:17 on his side.

  20. Lani, seems to me that being considered crazy in Thailand isn’t such a bad thing after all. Three cheers for Chuvit :-)

    Thank you John. Dunno about the Christian part and keeping quite. Seems to me that it’s Chuvit’s personality to talk loud about most anything. He does just that on the issue of his bad past, as if he’s seriously proud of what he’s done. Also, he comes across as the type who loves to rile people so keeping quiet about being a Christian doesn’t really fit with the personality that is coming through (but I could be wrong).

  21. If it were possible that he was a “closet” Christian, then the dedication to Jesus and the Glory of God would make sense to me, otherwise not sure what the point is? I also read somewhere that he called himself “grey” on some moral issues (“nightlife”) when he said others were black and white. He could believe strongly in what he perceives as the of the teachings and example of Jesus but not want to put himself “out there” as a moral example to the public yet. He may feel like he is not strong enough to live up to the judgments of the black/white folks…or maybe thinks of himself as a hypocrite in some ways, ie)Grey instead of black and white. I have seen men who are loud about most any other issue, but when it comes to their personal faith, they get silent. In another article he criticizes “the Buddhist” faith as a loveless faith that is only concerned with serenity. His frame is one outside looking in. Just my personal thoughts though. Thanks for the interesting posts!

  22. Who knows what his real beliefs are… Dedicating the park to God looks to be yet another phase in an erratic life. First he’s a Christian, then he’s a whoremonger, then he’s repenting, and now he’s a politician going after whoremongers, next week will be… who knows. All I know is that he bounces between the extremes – from god to godless – avoiding the quieter middle road… and that he’s not boring ;-)

  23. Chuwit Kamolvisit is a popular person and definitely not a boring kind of personality in Thailand but he is not successful during his terms as a government officer.

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