From The Bangkok Post
Aged only 31, he lures poor Thai women to Singapore with the promise of wealth by selling their bodies. He is the head pimp, or mangda in Thai, of the infamous jungle prostitutes of Woodlands, an outer suburb of the city-state where a large number of imported foreign labourers work mostly in factories.
For more than five years, he has “filled a need”, as he puts it, by providing poorly paid Indian, Bengali, Thai, Malaysian and Chinese men with sex that they can afford.
Before leaving Thailand for Singapore the girls know what type of work they will be doing and that it is illegal for them to work there. They fully believe him and his promises that they can earn more than 80,000 baht a month, and most put their families into debt of up to 20,000 baht for air fares and cash to show on arrival.
But he is scant on the details and the girls don’t get a chance to ask. A conversation with him takes the form of: He talks, you listen.
The only thing that turns out to be true is a free bed for a short amount of time. He never tells them that the price they pay for his services is servicing the first 160 customers for free, before they earn even one Singapore dollar for themselves. And few know they will be servicing multiple customers every night on a filthy mattress in the open air with only a thin blue tarpaulin wrapped around four posts for privacy.
Meet “Candy”, the hyper-active mafia don from the workers’ enclave of Woodlands. The Bangkok Post learned of Candy’s operations following a six-month investigation, which involved interviewing many of the women who worked in the forest brothels, and social meetings with the self-styled pimp, who was unaware he was being tracked.
Information gained from the investigation was passed on to Singaporean authorities, who made several arrests earlier this month when Candy returned to the island state.
He is married with four lovely young daughters who live in Johor, the southernmost state of Malaysia. Candy officially has a work permit for Singapore and he does work during the day as a “sub-con” as he calls it _ a sub-contractor plastering and erecting walls. But as the city grows dark and the lights flicker on, Candy morphs himself into the hard-nosed boss of three quickly erected “tents” in a dark parkland which provide Thai girls to the international workers at an affordable S$20 (about 460 baht) for 10 minutes.
Candy provides accommodation for the girls at his friend’s three-bedroom apartment. The women sleep on bunk-beds crammed into two of the bedrooms and he sleeps there with them.
There is no shortage of customers, and he laughs about the records his girls have set. A half-Thai, half-Indian woman has the record for the quickest 160 customers, or as he calls them, “dem”. She took only 17 days to get her “dem” tally.
After that, the girls can earn their own money, but he deducts some cash for the condoms, KY jelly and S$10 per night for the bed. At any one time he has between 10 and 20 women in work, who arrive on a 30-day holiday visa and then return to Thailand. Nearly all of them score their 160 “dem” in the first month, providing Candy with an income of S$3,200 per person per month. With only 10 girls in work, his income blossoms to S$32,000 a month, or a cool 700,000 baht.
It is alleged that Candy was once a part-time drug dealer before coming up with his idea of the “tents”. He enlisted the help of a Thai woman he met who was down on her luck and she soon fell in love with him. For some reason they all do.
Garn was from Chaiyaphum and each month when she returned there, she would recruit women to go to Singapore for work. Candy, who openly boasts he has bought three houses with his ill-gotten gains, all in his mother’s name, soon had a thriving business and word went around Soi Nana and elsewhere that Garn was always looking for women to go and work in Singapore.
Some women chose to overstay their visas to continue to work, while others returned time and again and did earn what they considered better money than working in the bars and karaokes of Thailand.
In July 2008, Candy was unhappy. His beds were full of women who had already scored 160 “dem”, so his income was limited to the S$10 a night he was charging for a bed. Candy befriended the police and arranged for a raid on his tents.
This cleared his problem and it also started a relationship with the Singapore police, which had been causing him occasional grief. Girls who have worked for him claim that he pays a monthly bribe to the police so that he is forewarned of any raids. They even say they have seen the money change hands.
Late last year May, a 19-year-old from Khon Kaen, arrived with some others to work. Most of Candy’s girls are aged in their late 20s to mid-40s and May took his eye. At the time Garn was in Thailand. When May discovered that she was required to attend to the needs of possibly 20 customers a day, she baulked at this. She had been told in Thailand that it was one customer per night _ something she thought she could handle.
Candy then offered her an alternative. As he had four daughters and no son, she could become a mia noi, or mistress, and give him an heir. He promised her a sin sot (bride price) she could never have dreamed of and a monthly salary of S$1,000.
May was in a Catch-22 situation. If she returned home penniless she would not be able to repay the 15,000 baht she borrowed to go to Singapore. She certainly didn’t want to have sex with 20 men a day, so option three seemed the best alternative. After all, everybody loved Candy and he was rich and famous.
Garn soon found out and was furious and began plotting Candy’s demise. It was only then that she realised that nobody knew Candy’s real name and without it, there was no stopping him.
On her second trip to Singapore, May became pregnant, and this was confirmed by a hospital in Thailand on her return. But Garn had stopped sending girls to Candy and his business was dropping off.
Candy decided to come to Thailand and do the recruiting himself. May and some former workers were ordered to find possibilities. His flight was booked.
Unbeknown to Candy, the Bangkok Post had been investigating him. The girls who had worked for him had no recourse for their complaints, but the media sometimes has a sympathetic ear. After all, they knew they were doing something illegal, but they did not know Candy would take advantage of them so much. He always looked and sounded like such a nice guy.
On the Air Asia flight from Singapore, Candy finally let his guard down. He went to the toilet, but there in the pocket was his boarding pass which was passed on to the Bangkok Post. It read: Flight FD3506, Seat number 25D. Passenger name: Lee Swee Teck.
We had him.
Candy was easily befriended during his quick recruiting trip to Bangkok, where he mainly operated in and around Soi Nana. He was hyper-active, consistently talking on the phone or talking with possible employees. One prospect who was introduced to Candy said he phoned her four times the next day, trying to convince her to go to Singapore.
On his return to Singapore the Bangkok Post alerted the relevant Singaporean authorities and gave them all the information we had, including names and the address where the girls were being housed.
On March 13 Mr Lee, alias Candy, was arrested. During the arrest Candy, along with his two best friends, Ah Meng and Ah Pooee, fought with police officers and all three were arrested. A raid was conducted on the apartment where the girls were living. Some were detained and remain in Singapore as prosecution witnesses.
Lee Swee Teck has been charged with a variety of offences and is to appear in court tomorrow. on Monday, March 29.
Last week Garn was denied entry to Singapore. She was informed the ban is for life.
Pregnant, May was not detained in the raid but was penniless as Candy controlled her finances and her life. The apartment’s owner demanded she leave as he feared the police would return.
May phoned friends in Thailand, saying Candy faces at least five years in jail, that she had no money, feared returning to face her family and that she was considering suicide. At the time of going to press, her Singapore phone no longer connects and her whereabouts are unknown.
Not only does Candy take full advantage of the Thai women, but certain personnel in the Singapore Police do as well.
Candy’s special customers: the bribe-taking, sex-hungry policemen
All of the Thai women interviewed claim that Candy pays a monthly bribe to the police. The policeman he pays is a former head of the Woodlands branch who is now working elsewhere.
Some of the girls believe that Candy’s best friend, Ah Pooee, contributes half of the bribe and Candy often refers to the S$4,000 (92,000 baht) a month they pay the police.
In return Candy is forewarned of any raids which are going to take place.
Ah Pooee, also a Malaysian Chinese, is the main drug dealer in the Woodlands industrial area.
He is a ya ba user and supplies all kinds of drugs from his unit at a factory where he works as a foreman.
The drugs are kept under his bed. The Thai girls believe Ah Pooee must contribute to the bribe with Candy, due to the openness with which he is allowed to conduct his business.
One night in January a local po liceman in uniform arrived at the tents unannounced. The girls fled. The policeman used a knife to cut up all of the mattresses and he left a message with the tent minder for Candy: “You are paying the wrong police.”
According to the girls Candy was furious. In a rage he phoned “his” policeman and he later told the girls that “his” policeman would take care of everything.
The girls never heard or saw the knife-wielding policeman again and Candy later told them that he had been transferred.
But one local policeman, who calls himself Jack, has become Candy’s enemy number one.
In the first instance, Jack and two fellow policemen wearing matching police polo shirts arrived at the tents late on the night of Jan 24. All but one girl, Bam, who was half-way through seeing a customer, fled. Jack threatened to arrest her for working without a work permit, but he offered to let her go in exchange for a free sex session.
Jack had sex with Bam and was followed by a dark-skinned officer. A third officer refused to participate.
Police officer Jack and his friends have in recent months been regularly visiting the tents trying to catch some girls.
Candy has a male Thai worker manning each tent.
They put up the tent at the start of the evening and collect all the money. They also sort out any problems but now must try and look out for Jack and his mates and shout a warning to the girls.
Despite this, Jack has been enjoying taking advantage of his position in the police force to obtain free sex.
But two weeks ago things escalated.
A team of police, led by Jack, raided the only tent not controlled by Candy.
Again the police made no arrests, nor did they demand free sex. Instead, according to the girls working there, the police went through all of their belongings and stole seven mobile phones, about 12 baht in weight of gold (worth nearly 200,000 baht) and more than S$12,000 in cash.