BANGKOK's mega-brothels are being blamed for the sinking of the city by cops who say the gaudy businesses are illegally stealing groundwater for "soapy massages".
The crackdown was launched after a trafficking raid on Victoria Secret massage parlour found evidence the venue was siphoning water to avoid paying pricey utility bills, The Sun reports.
Investigators also discovered underage sex workers at the business and a ledger listing bribes to authorities.
Environmental officials say the illegal tapping of water contributes to the sinking of Bangkok, a low-lying city built on the banks of the Chaophraya river.
Experts have warned that parts of Bangkok could be submerged by 2030, chiefly due to rising sea levels and the draining of groundwater in the capital's swampy soil.
More than 40 "soapy massage" parlours - huge brothels with dozens private bathrooms where customers receive sexual services - are being inspected for water theft.
"Today we will examine the water quality of each room we will go inside," Suwat Inthasit, deputy commander of Natural Resources and Environment Crime Suppression Division, said.
Mr Inthasit made the statement before leading a raid on the Embassy Entertain massage parlour in a district notorious for its smutty night-life. "We suspect they have illegally used groundwater," he said.
Officers can test the water to determine whether it is from a legitimate piped source or illegally taken from the ground.
The practice exploded during the city's rapid development several decades ago. Efforts in recent years to regulate groundwater use have drastically slowed the city's sinking rate from a peak of around 10cm a year in the late 1970s.
But the massage parlours' breach of regulations has revealed yet another way in which notorious venues fail to be above board.
Although prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, it is widely tolerated and openly practised, with sleazy brothels dominating some areas of the capital.
A system of bribes and loopholes keeps the lucrative industry afloat, with police largely turning a blind eye unless brothels are suspected of employing underage or trafficked sex workers.
Public officials are routinely implicated in kickback scandals allowing the sex industry to flourish, but police rarely face prosecution in a country where wealth and rank shields wrongdoers from the law.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.