On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

MB sets out on anti-vice crusade

To prevent his raids from being made known, especially
information being leaked out, he makes it a point to only call the officers
from the various agencies after personally checking the premises.

At the health centre, he found women from Russia, China, Thailand and Indonesia
whom he suspects offer sex service besides massage. Among the three locals was
a young Malay woman.

Some of the women began making telephone calls. The enforcement officers
confiscated their cell phones, saying they would only be returned to them at
the district police headquarters where they will be detained.

Another health centre in the area was simultaneously raided. The officers there
informed the Mentri Besar that there were more customers at this place.

As the raids ended, reporters from two television stations approached Dr Khir
for comments. He appeared hesitant, saying they should approach the council and
police instead.

It has certainly not been easy for the young politician. His actions have been
dismissed by some people as a publicity stunt. They say the world's oldest
profession cannot be eradicated as long as there is demand for it.

They add that Dr Khir had made his point and the job should now be left to
those entrusted with it.

They also say it is not the Mentri Besar's job to act against brothel owners
and that there are other more pressing matters which he could channel his
energies to.

But women groups, especially Wanita MCA and religious groups, have expressed
support for his actions, saying the Mentri Besar wants to make a strong
statement that he could not tolerate the wanton sex trade in the state.

Many Selangor residents, too, have defended his actions, which shows that the
MB feels the pulse of the grassroots.

In a recent interview, Dr Khir said the complaints came mostly from Chinese
housewives who lament that their husbands had used the household budget, meant
for paying bills and their children's tuition fees, for sex with prostitutes.
They had found hotel receipts in their husband's pockets and lipstick stains on
their shirts. The women felt betrayed by the actions of their husbands.

If drug abuse involves mostly Malays, Dr Khir said the majority of the clients
at health centres were Chinese – at a raid in Damansara, 98% of the customers
were Chinese, and at another Ampang raid, all were Chinese.

Poison-pen letters have been sent to the MB's office and the media containing
allegations of the involvement of politicians in the lucrative vice

It remains to be seen how effective these raids will be. Pessimists say these
brothels will resume operations soon, drawing a parallel to the large number of
stalls selling pirated VCDs despite the high-profile anti-piracy

By his own admission, Dr Khir said it would be difficult to fight prostitution because
it involved powerful syndicates and most of the sex workers were willingly
doing it for big money.

The law, it has also been pointed out, merely states that it is an offence to
solicit for sex but in health centres, what takes place inside the room between
the masseur and the customer would be difficult for anyone to prove

The only action that could be taken against any foreign women caught at health
centres is under the immigration laws – for violation of their visit

The odds are stacked against Dr Khir and, realistically, it is almost an
impossible crusade.

As a follow-up, the Mentri Besar could perhaps launch a campaign on family
values, roping in the various non-government organisations and religious groups
of all faiths.

The state government could carry out a health awareness campaign at high-risk
neighbourhoods with the cooperation of residents associations. In the long
term, such campaigns would be more effective, realistic and sustainable.