Wanchalong P.K Saenchai Gym, Sexual Harassment & Accountability

On December 24th, Wanchalong P.K Saenchai Gym (Thaworn Sudchanham) posted a video in which he sexually harassed and groped women at a party.

He looked into the camera as he reached out to grab the buttocks of a female server behind him. He then touched her arm to get her attention, and as she smiled awkwardly into the camera, he put his hand down her top and touched her breasts. When she covered her chest and brushed his hand away, he continued. This time, then putting his hand over his nose and inhaling. The woman continued serving other customers as Wanchalong laughed, reaching out to touch her again.

The video then cuts to Wanchalong having gotten the same woman to sit on his lap. He sniff-kisses her back multiple times, and in response, she recoils and immediately gets up and moves away. Then, Wanchalong turns his attention to the next woman in his vicinity, Nat Ketsarin.

Nat is a famous adult performer who is often paid to make appearances at public events, and has previously been pictured with Wanchalong. As she appears to be having a conversation with someone off-camera, Wanchalong puts his hand on her butt and proudly looks into the camera. She responds by playfully scolding him, maintaining the appearance of friendliness while letting him know that what he was doing was not OK.

This wasn’t enough to deter Wanchalong, who uploaded the clip to his Instagram and Tik Tok accounts and even proudly tagged his sponsor, sports betting company AutoR1.

The clip amassed around 500 likes, with a mixed response in the comments.

Two days after the clip was posted online, I reposted it to Instagram and Twitter, highlighting Wanchalong’s inappropriate behaviour.

The post drew a strong reaction. On Instagram, foreigners in the Muay Thai community condemned Wanchalong’s behaviour, with some tagging P.K Saenchai Gym and asking for a response, and others saying they would no longer feel comfortable training there.

On Twitter, the clip was met with disgust from Thai users. After being retweeted by a writer from Young Pride Club, it was viewed more than 2 million times with 36,000+ retweets. Some of the responses are shown below.

P.K Saenchai Gym left an initial response as a comment on my Instagram post, announcing that they didn’t condone what took place in the video, and promising a formal apology.

Wanchalong later posted a public response on his Facebook page, in a now-deleted image of text over a background of laughing emojis. “It was just content”, it read. “I asked permission before recording”. The caption read, “It’s just acting. We talked before recording, calm down. In real life, I’m cute. I’m sorry to anyone who doesn’t like it”.

Later that same day, he posted a longer statement. He clarified that the women in the video were ‘hired to entertain guests’ and said that he’d asked permission to film. He also added that he’s a ‘funny person’, and that most of his followers should know that he was ‘acting’. “I have a wife and she understands what happened”, he said. “I’m a normal guy, I’m not crazy enough to sexually harass a stranger”.

In his post, he included a screenshot of tweets from Thai users to illustrate his feelings on the matter. One read; “These servers entertain people and understand the happiness of this situation. They don’t worry about that. It’s their job to be friendly to everyone. If someone tried to sexually harass or rape them, they would protect themselves and curse at him, not play with him. They’re not naive. They understand that it’s just fun”.

Another read; “prostitutes get fucked, but I don’t see any of them coming out and saying they got sexually harassed. This is their job, and they chose it. People are just turning it into a drama to get retweets. This is why sex work is not legal”.

Dek N’ in Thailand

The women in the video can be described as working as ‘dek n’. ‘Dek’ is a prefix often used to describe jobs involving service, and the ‘n’ is short for ‘entertainment’. Dek N is a broad term which can refer to various levels of work, sometimes involving dressing in a sexy outfit while serving customers. However, this doesn’t give those customers the right to touch them without consent.

Some Twitter users with experience in this kind of work weighed in on the matter.

“As someone who used to do this job, I really don’t understand why some people think they can do this kind of thing to a server”, one tweeted. Another shared her experience. “Men like this would always grab us, and yet didn’t even pay a single baht tip”, she wrote. “I had to endure this kind of behaviour because this job paid more than the average server, but that didn’t mean that customers could pay to grope me”.

The women in the video were working as well as being filmed, and were therefore pressured to smile for the camera. Netizens who used their polite demeanour in defence of Wanchalong’s actions failed to take this into account. While they remained cordial and professional, their discomfort was clear. Among the Twitter users who pushed back on this misconception, one asked “So does being a dek n mean that people can grab them however they want? In the clip, she looks like she doesn’t want to be touched. She tries to evade it or brush it off, which means she doesn’t want to let him do that. And one more thing, the role of dek n is to entertain guests for fun. They’re not there to be sexually assaulted”.

Thai News Coverage

Following the response of Twitter and Wanchalong’s public statement, several Thai media outlets began covering the story.

Posts first began cropping up on Muay Thai news Facebook pages, before wider national news sites including ThaiRath, Daily News, Sanook and KhaoSod picked up the story. Reporters on Channel 3 News and MCOT also discussed the topic live on TV broadcasts.

In an interview with a journalist from KhaoSod, Wanchalong was asked to clarify whether he’d told the women in the clip what he was going to do before filming. “I told them I was taking a video for my fan page”, he replied. He also added that he ‘wai’ed the women after taking the video to say thank you, as if this was a gentlemanly act. “I make a lot of clips”, he said. “In all my clips, I always wai them before and after”.

Nat Ketsarin’s Response

The news coverage prompted a response from Net Ketsarin, as many netizens had noted her appearance in the video.

In the days following the story, she posted a public statement on Instagram and Facebook.

“At the event, there were some people I’m close with, some I knew, and others I didn’t know”, she wrote. On that day, there were many people who asked to take photos and videos of me, but I didn’t focus on who was filming what and what they were doing, because everyone was having fun and people ought to know what they should and should not do. In regards to others, I don’t know and don’t want to comment further on this story. Thank you”.

This was a very tactical but clear statement from Nat. She made it clear that Wanchalong’s behaviour was unacceptable, alluding to the fact that he should know better. Anyone who experiences sexual misconduct should not be pressured to talk about it, or to share more than they’re comfortable with. However, even if Nat did want to speak further, she’s limited in what she can say due to her high profile and the nature of her work.

Wanchalong, Saenchai, and Misogynistic ‘Glua Mia’ Jokes in Thailand

In my Instagram post about Wanchalong’s video, I noted his reputation for being a ‘joker’ and how this was likely how his actions would be dismissed. Predictably, that’s exactly how he responded. When you take a look at his previous posts, his pattern of behaviour and attitude towards women is clear.

In November, he posted a video of himself groping a woman’s breast. He began by putting his arm around her to invite her into the frame, then used this as an opportunity to touch her breast. She scolded him before walking away. Again, he’d posted this publicly, as if it were something to be proud of and to laugh at.

Aside from videos like this one, Wanchalong’s content often follows a theme similar to that of Saenchai, which mainly involves gawking at and fawning over women in the gym. A large portion of these videos is also ‘glua mia’ (กลัวเมีย) jokes, in which the punchline is always a man who’s afraid of being scolded by his wife. Wanchalong and Saenchai have even made such videos together.

Saenchai has made ‘don’t tell my wife’ the theme of much of his social media presence, often captioning pictures and videos with women with a ‘shush’ emoji, and joking that his wife will kick him when she sees them. In some of these videos, he’s shown flirting with female students, sometimes offering to wrap their hands or jumping on them to clinch with them in an exaggerated way. The theme is light-hearted, with many of the women, his wife included, appearing to be willingly in on the joke. However, the act of using women as props in this way sends a distasteful message about how they can be expected to be viewed at his gym, Yokkao. 

In response to the backlash and news coverage, Wanchalong made one such self-deprecating ‘glua mia’ video, in which he wore a wig (a frequent feature of his videos) while handwashing clothes.

News sites Coconuts Bangkok and The Thaiger highlighted the video in their coverage, calling it a ‘joke apology’.

“This is the result of my bad actions”, the caption read.“I didn’t think it would be big news. After this, there will be no more like it. I apologize to everyone disappointed in me. Now, my wife has announced a curfew. I’m grounded and must do all the housework and refrain from taking clips with other people”.

This was Wanchalong’s way of addressing the issue — making light of it. Using this kind of joke to respond to sexual harassment suggests that it wasn’t the women in the video whom Wanchalong had wronged, but his wife. The insinuation is that being good to his wife makes him a good man. This is a common theme with ‘glua mia’ jokes.

These kinds of jokes are commonplace in Thai society. In an article about sexist jokes in Thailand, Manushya Foundation described the implications they carry.  

“When men poke fun at themselves for being the ‘inferior’ one or being ‘scolded’ by their wives, it is usually indicative of their lack of responsibilities. For example, their inability to help with chores. This narrative also trivializes the real power imbalance where men are structurally more privileged”.

In a 2020 tweet, Thai user Prebple explained further. 

“Glua mia is a mockery of patriarchy”, she wrote. In a patriarchal society, being afraid of your wife is considered a joke”.

In a follow-up tweet, she added, “when we hear the words ‘fear of wife’, it’s funny. But being afraid of your husband sounds different. That’s a real fear, and in my personal opinion, creates a violent image. I want to show the difference here”.

‘Glua mia’ is commonly seen as a joke in Thailand, and in the Muay Thai community, this is no different. In fact, the idea is so laughable that one private gym in Chiang Mai has adopted it as a branding concept, with the English translation, ‘fear of wife’ printed on its ring canvas.

Harassment as Entertainment

Wanchalong has never explicitly acknowledged that the way he groped the women was wrong, only the taking and posting of the video.

By referring to his actions as ‘just content’, he defends the depiction of sexual harassment as entertainment. So, while he claims to be against what he considers ‘real’ sexual harassment, he seems to have no qualms about promoting it.

P.K Saenchai Gym’s Response

Following the public backlash, a response from P.K Saenchai Gym management began circulating on Muay Thai news Facebook pages.

Management figure Joe P.K Saenchai Gym is quoted as saying “The gym will certainly have a punishment for this. Though some might say it’s a private matter, it has caused damage to the gym’s reputation…In the future, don’t take any more clips like this, even if it is intended as content”.

The gym later followed up with an official statement via video, apologising again and promising that there will be consequences if Wanchalong ever repeats this behaviour. 

“We at PK Saenchai don’t condone Wanchalong’s actions of harassment”, the caption read. “We gave him a stern talking in hopes that we could help him understand that what he did was wrong. We know this can’t change what he’s done, but we hope he will make better decisions in the future. Should he break his promise, we already have a severe (career-ending) punishment in mind”.

For some, this was a satisfactory response, with some users thanking the gym and P.K fighters expressing pride in comments. For others, it wasn’t enough.

Other commenters noted that this behaviour was nothing new for Wanchalong, who has a reputation for his ‘creepy’ posts. They suggested that his apology was insincere, only coming as a result of public pressure.

Whether or not that’s true, the fact that a public apology has been given is still significant. Now, a fighter has had to publicly answer for this kind of behaviour, and his gym has been held accountable for its handling of it. This came as a direct result of the public call-out, without which no action would have been taken.

Creating a Culture of Accountability

Wanchalong’s behaviour was seemingly not seen as a problem until there was a very public backlash. At least, not enough for it to be addressed in this way. After all, the video was up for days prior to the public response. Since the news coverage, it has now been deleted, along with several other previous posts.

Now, it’s been made clear that sexual misconduct, and even ‘jokes’ about it, must be taken more seriously, and failing to do so can impact not only a fighter’s reputation, but also their gym’s.

Will Wanchalong change his behaviour or attitude towards women? That’s up to him. Either way, that’s not the main concern. The focus is on creating a culture in which sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable. Now, at least he knows that there are consequences for being so openly misogynistic.

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