Muay Thai gym co-founder found guilty of sexual assault

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Judge's gavel. (Photo: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A Muay Thai instructor was found guilty on Wednesday (22 January) of sexually assaulting a 33-year-old prospective client while giving her a massage at his gym.

Tan Wai Luen, 30, a co-founder of Encore Muay Thai gym, had claimed trial to the charge, saying he was in a serious relationship at the time and that he had only touched the victim’s outer thigh.

Tan is no longer with the gym, which has only female staff nowadays because of the incident in 2016.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

Massaged inner thighs near private parts

Encore, located along Joo Chiat Road, is touted as Singapore’s first all-women Muay Thai gym. It was founded a month before the incident.

On 1 October 2016, the victim went for a trial Muay Thai class at the gym after she saw a Facebook advertisement for a free trial class and a “body analysis”. At about 12.15pm, she met Tan, who introduced himself as “Ivan” and the instructor for the class.

After the introduction, they discussed packages offered at the gym, before Tan offered the victim a free Thai massage. He lied to her that he was the only instructor trained to do so.

The victim proceeded to the massage table, where she undressed to her panties before lying face down and covering herself with a towel.

Tan then massaged her using olive oil. At one point, he massaged her inner thighs near her private parts, making her feel uncomfortable. She moved her legs around and he moved on to massage her calves.

Tan later resumed massaging the victim’s inner thighs and sexually assaulted her with his finger. The victim turned around and shouted at the perpetrator, who did not respond.

The massage continued for another 10 to 15 minutes before the victim changed and left. As she was leaving the premises, she realised the door had been locked from the inside.

“That was when it dawned upon her that the entire ordeal was premeditated and the accused had deliberately locked the main door,” the prosecution said.

The next day, the woman messaged another of the gym co-founders, Vivian Chan Li Ping, about the incident. Chan confronted Tan, who denied giving the woman a massage. Chan then made a police report.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy earlier told the court that the victim had perceived Tan to be stronger and trained in Muay Thai. She did not escalate the matter at the point when she was assaulted as she was in a state of shock.

Accused insists he didn’t touch sensitive area

At trial, Tan, a divorcee with three children, said the victim initiated a conversation with him while they were having a smoke break outside the gym. She asked Tan why there was a massage bed in the gym, to which he replied that it was used for sports therapy by another partner of the gym.

“During that time I was eager for every sales to be closed, as Encore was newly launched, so on the way back to Encore, I did say if the victim wanted a Thai massage, I didn’t mind to offer her (the massage) after the trial session,” he told the court.

Tan later offered her a free massage as she appeared reluctant to take up the package. He insisted that he did not touch her inner thigh area, and also denied that the victim had shouted at him, pointing out that she would not have continued the massage for up to 15 minutes if he had indeed sexually assaulted her.

He added that he was dating another woman, hence it was “impossible” that he would commit such an act.

Due to the case, he had been unable to find a job and support his three children, the eldest of whom has been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.

“As a single parent, I don’t wish (for) my kids (to grow) up without their father, and (for me to be) ridiculously accused of sexual offences for the massage service given to the victim out of goodwill,” he said.

The maximum punishment Tan faces is up to 20 years’ jail, along with a fine or caning.

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