Stronger levers needed to lessen vice

We refer to Mr Adam Reutens-Tan's letter (Restrictions on massage parlours not the best way to tackle vice; March 7).

Massage establishments (MEs) are regulated to prevent them from being used as fronts for vice activities, or causing law and order problems. MHA has reviewed the regulatory regime to ensure that it remains effective and appropriate.

As part of the review, the Massage Establishments Act was re-enacted with amendments, to provide stronger levers against errant licensees. Licensees who breach licensing conditions will face increased penalties of a fine of up to $10,000, up to two years' jail, or both. If the licensee has been charged for vice-related offences, the police are empowered to immediately suspend the licence.

The police have also put in place restrictions on operating hours to mitigate the risks of vice. This also takes into account feedback on disamenities to residents that are associated with 24-hour MEs. The police consulted the Spa Association Singapore and the Spa and Wellness Association of Singapore, which supported the move.

Customers will still be able to access 24-hour MEs. MEs that comply with more stringent requirements and are located in designated areas such as Orchard Road and Marina Centre will be allowed to operate 24 hours. The new restrictions were applied immediately on MEs in HDB estates, by varying the conditions of their existing licences. For other MEs, the new restrictions will apply only after their existing licences expire and be in their new licences. Exceptions may be considered, on a case-by-case basis.

Sunny Lee
Director, Media Relations
Ministry of Home Affairs

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Stronger levers needed to lessen vice'. Print Edition | Subscribe