By CHRISTINA LOW
The Star, Friday July 24, 2009
DESPITE the freeze in issuing licences for massage parlours in Selangor by the state government last year, such premises have been seen mushrooming at a rate that had even changed the outlook of popular spots in Petaling Jaya.
Areas like SS2, Kota Damansara, Sunway Mentari and Damansara Utama have grown from being popular spots to seek food and are now hot spots for those looking for a good rub.
A check by StarMetro recently noted that such outlets had multiplied and many had opened within the last six months.
During a recent visit to an outlet in SS2, an operator told us that business was tougher than before as almost all shops are offering deals of up to 50% discounts for customers visiting during lunch hour.
He said many in the area were old operators but new ones were slowly seen occupying vacant lots.
A masseur, who only wanted to be known as Wong, even pointed to a shop which is now under renovation and said it would be turned into a massage parlour.
“We were told that no one can apply for new licences but we still see new ones coming up, maybe it is easier for those running a big chain of parlours,” Wong said.
Just like Wong, many are aware that applications for licences had been put on hold but they wonder how newer outlets were still able to operate with a proper licence in hand.
Wong also said the council did conduct raids on the premises and sometimes this caused problems as well.
“Once, when they came and I showed them our licence, the officer told me that my licence could be fake and they needed to check on it, I had to close my shop for three days because of that,” Wong said.
He also added that licences for foot massages were much easier to obtain than for those who wanted to operate both foot and body massage parlours.
“It is easy but we don’t earn much from foot massages, which is why everyone wants to do body massages,” Wong said.
He added that some outlets did not have the proper licences for body massages, but they still provided the services illegally.
The outlets in Petaling Jaya have similar opening hours starting at 11am and finishing at about 1am.
A drive to Kota Damansara saw more than 20 massage parlours in full operation, some occupying up to two floors of a shop house with large banners promoting the list of services available.
Whether it is for your foot, body, shoulder or neck, these centres have it all covered with health descriptions and benefits of each therapy.
Workers in such outlets comprise a mix of locals, Thais, Chinese and Myanmars who are all well trained but speak very little English.
One masseur from China who wanted to be known as Lin said the job was easy and paid well.
Lin said she could earn up to RM1,800 in commission monthly and had no worries on the accommodation as it was provided by her employer.
The 27-year-old said business at the centre picked up from 9pm onwards, hence the afternoons were quite relaxing.
She added that the agent would send them for classes where they were taught the Taiwanese massage style before they could start working at the outlet.
The small outlet which Lin works at provides the basic foot and body massage, but she said those occupying larger units had more services such as sauna baths all hidden behind a dark tinted glass door which may suggest other activities.
At present, the Petaling Jaya City Council said there were only 301 licensed massage parlours in the city.
As of July 15, this year the council had issued up to 126 compound notices and raided 10 outlets which did not abide by the Beauty and Healthcare By-law 2007.
The council had also placed signages at their counters informing the public of the freeze in issuing licenses for massage parlours and cybercafes.
The council’s public relations director, Haniza Abdul Hamid, said it conducted surprise checks on the massage parlours.
“We conduct checks on their licences and see if they had abided by the by-laws or we would issue summonses,
“Sometimes, the police and Immigration Department officers will come along for checks on the foreign workers at those outlets,” Haniza said.
The freeze of licences also does not apply to outlets setting up new branches.
She said those who wanted to apply to open new branches could continue to do so but not for new outlets with only one branch.
Most of the operators seemed to be running legal businesses with the licence tag hung near the cash registers but it still is the duty of the enforcement officers to find out.
Early this month, the Selangor MCA had challenged state executive council member Ronnie Liu to disclose the number of licences approved for entertainment centres, including massage parlours, since Pakatan Rakyat took over the state administration.
They want Liu to spend more time clamping down on the mushrooming of illegal massage parlours and cybercafes, as they had a negative influence on the youth.
They felt the presence of illegal massage parlours is also a cause for concern as they may cause a disruption in family values, rise in promiscuity and sexual exploitation of underaged girls or foreigners.
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