'Tissue paper sellers' offer massages at hawker centre
'Tissue paper sellers' offer massages at Chinatown hawker centre
At a Chinatown hawker centre, some women are selling packets of tissue paper as a cover for earning money from on-the-spot massages on beer drinkers.
They walk around the food centre on the pretext of selling tissue paper, reported Shin Min Daily News.
Hawkers and customers at the People's Park Food Centre said that earlier this year, these women could be seen almost every night, going around the tables asking men if they would like a massage.
They usually targeted those drinking beer, said a drinks stall worker who wanted to be known only as Madam Chen.
Shown pictures of the masseuses, the 43-year-old, who is originally from China, told The New Paper she used to see the women approach her customers every night.
"I recognised one of the women very well, she is from Vietnam," said Madam Chen.
"Sometimes she got quite aggressive and kept pestering the men. They would usually agree after having a few beers."
The women would knead the men's back and shoulders over their shirts, but Madam Chen had seen a number of men take off their shirts, sitting bare bodied on the hawker centre chairs during the massage.
She added that some of the women would even sit down with their customers for drinks after the massage.
Asked if she knew how much each 10- to 15-minute session cost, Madam Chen shook her head.
"We try to mind our own business so there won't be any conflict," she said.
When TNP visited the food centre on Tuesday night, the massage women did not show up.
But cleaners and diners said it is only a matter of time before they start making their rounds again. Mr Wong Ah Keng, a 71-year-old cleaner, said the women had been plying their trade at the food centre for nearly half a year.
"A few months ago, there were a lot of people talking about the tissue sellers, so the inspectors from National Environment Agency kept coming to check and the masseuses disappeared," he said in Mandarin.
"But last week, I saw them come back again."
Shin Min reported that the women made their reappearance on Christmas Eve.
Retiree Mary Tang, who regularly eats at the food centre, told TNP it was a very disconcerting sight.
She said: "Can you imagine eating here and next to you, someone has his shirt off and is getting a massage?
"This is a hawker centre, not a massage parlour."
I recognised one of the women very well, she is from Vietnam. Sometimes she got quite aggressive and kept pestering the men. They would usually agree after having a few beers.
- Madam Chen, drinks stall worker
Can you imagine eating here and next to you, someone has his shirt off and is getting a massage? This is a hawker centre, not a massage parlour.
- Retiree Mary Tang
Lawyers: Massage service a grey area
While the sale of tissue paper requires a licence from the National Environment Agency, the situation veers into ambiguous territory when it comes to massages in a public place, lawyers told The New Paper.
Mr Luke Lee from Luke Lee & Co said the women who peddle their services at People's Park Food Centre do not fall under the Massage Establishment Act.
"For that Act to take effect, it would have to be an actual brick-and-mortar shop that would be licensed and the operator would then keep a list of the masseuses under his employ, which is how they are regulated," he said.
But lawyer Rajan Supramaniam of Hilborne Law said the provision of such services "borders on illegality".
"It's almost like soliciting for business, but this isn't soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, which is a clear-cut offence," he said.
"What they are doing is illegal if the women are here on social visit passes, which means it's against the law for them to work."
A lawyer from a multinational firm told TNP that while the law is strict on massage establishments, the masseuses pose a different sort of challenge.
"If you look at the reasoning behind the Massage Establishment Act, it was put in place a few years ago to clean up the massage industry, which had acquired a rather sleazy reputation," she said.
"So they would also want to weed out instances like the ones at People's Park Food Centre.
"The challenge now is that there is no specific regulation that says what these women are doing is illegal because soliciting is hard to prove and it's technically not an offence to provide a massage in a hawker centre."
Under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, it is an offence to solicit for prostitution or for any immoral purposes.
Those found guilty of the offence may be fined up to $1,000 on the first occasion, and fined up to $2,000 on the second occasion and jailed for up to six months, or both.
Geylang's 'mobile massages'
ON-THE-GO: A Geylang coffee shop used to have women offering massage services. TNP FILE PHOTO
In 2013, The New Paper reported on "mobile massages" at a coffee shop on Geylang Lorong 11.
TNP had visited on a Monday night at about 9pm and saw three women providing the service to male patrons drinking at tables outside the coffee shop.
Each woman kept about 10 tables apart from the other, working within their own designated area.
After a deal was agreed upon, the patron would remove his shirt so the masseuse could apply massage oil on his back, all out in the open.
The session lasted between 15 and 30 minutes before the women moved on to other customers. Some would even sit and have a drink or two with their customers after the session, some coffee shop patrons said.
One man who was getting his arm massaged said he was getting a "Vietnamese style" massage for $10.
But residents said it was unsightly seeing half-naked men sitting around the coffee shops.
When TNP revisited the coffee shop this week, an eatery operator, who wanted to be known only as Madam Yang, said: "Ever since the police started patrolling the area more after the tighter alcohol rules, these women have mostly stopped what they were doing."