Muay Thai gym co-founder given jail and caning for sexually assaulting client

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SINGAPORE — A Muay Thai instructor convicted of sexually assaulting a prospective client while giving her a massage at a gym was sentenced to seven years, four months’ jail on Friday (6 March). 

Tan Wai Luen, the co-founder of Encore Muay Thai gym, will also be given four strokes of the cane.

In sentencing the 31-year-old, District Judge (DJ) Ong Chin Rhu noted that while there is a certain degree of abuse of trust, she did not find that Tan’s actions had been premeditated to the extent that it would be regarded as an aggravating factor. She also noted that the period of sexual assault was relatively short and to a “relatively low” extent.  

Tan is no longer with the gym, which has now has only female staff and clients due to the incident in 2016. The father of three had claimed trial to one count of sexual assault through digital penetration and was convicted in January.

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

According to the prosecution, the then 33-year-old victim had attended a trial Muay Thai class at the gym on 1 October 2016 after seeing an advertisement on Facebook. 

Her instructor was Tan, who introduced himself as “Ivan”. After the class, the woman discussed packages offered at the gym with Tan, who offered the woman a free Thai massage. He told her that he was the only one trained to do so.

The victim claimed she accepted the offer and proceeded to the massage table, where she undressed to her panties before lying face down on the massage table 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 the victim feel uncomfortable. She moved her legs and assumed that the man realised her discomfort as he moved on to massage her calves.

Tan later resumed massaging the woman’s inner thighs and sexually assaulted her. The woman turned around and shouted “oi” at Tan, but he did not respond. The massage continued for about 10 to 15 minutes before the woman changed and left. As she was leaving, the woman realised that the door was locked from the inside.

The next day, the woman sent texts to another co-founder of the gym, Vivian Chan Li Ping, telling her about the incident. Chan testified in court that she confronted Tan about the victim’s allegations and he denied giving the woman a Thai massage. Chan later reported the matter to the police.

Tan’s acts not premeditated: Judge

While sentencing Tan, DJ Ong considered that the offending period was a few seconds and not a sustained duration. She also noted that the sexual assault was not as aggravating as other similar cases. 

“In relation to abuse of trust, I agree with prosecution that the accused had indeed abused the trust of the victim albeit to a certain limited extent,” said the judge. The victim had testified that she accepted the accused’s offer to massage her as she trusted the accused and had no reason to disbelieve him, said the judge. However the two had not known each other before the victim had taken the trial class.

On why she did not consider Tan’s act as premeditated, DJ Ong said, “The accused had locked the main door. (I) recognise that taking deliberate steps may sometimes be illustrative of planning and premeditation, however there is in my mind a distinction between premeditation the law regards as aggravating and which involves a high degree of premeditation and planning, and the accused merely seizing opportunities as it arose. The latter would not amount to premeditation.”

Tan had instead “seized and acted on opportunity” which arose upon the victim seeing the price list and asking the accused about Thai massages. 

After the sentence was delivered, Tan, who is divorced, indicated that he wanted to appeal, telling the court, “For this whole event, I admitted that I made a false report to the police, but in my position, I did not sexually penetrate my finger into the victim.”

In response, the judge allowed him to file an appeal but asked him to start serving his jail term pending his application. 

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