DANOK/THAILAND - Thai towns that are close to the Malaysian border are known for their carnal attractions, but Danok, just across Kedah's Bukit Kayu Hitam, is now famous for something else - tattoo removal.
Following the nationwide crackdown on gangsterism under Ops Cantas Khas, gang members are making a beeline for this town to get tattoo artists to either modify or to have the images removed.
The gang members will typically spend a week here and party from dusk to dawn before heading back to Malaysia after their bodies are sufficiently "cleansed".
A survey by The Star found that there are six tattoo parlours in dark corners of the town that comes under the Songkhla province.
"Usually, the gang members emerge in the evenings after consuming lots of alcohol," said tattooist Osman Rusof.
"They need to be 'infused' with courage as the procedure is quite painful. For those with signs that are obvious, we need to redesign it," said the Thai.
Osman, however, refused to be photographed, saying his clients were "intimidating types".
The parlours are owned by Thais, but frequented mostly by Malaysian tourists, some of whom are gang members.
Security at these parlours is tight, with some operators installing CCTV cameras. Workers sometimes turn away potential clients if they suspect them to be law enforcers.
That gangsters are hurrying to rid themselves of tattoos is no surprise given that police are looking out for these markings, some of which are blatant gang symbols.
"We believe that the gang members mostly remove their tattoos in Kuala Lumpur, but some also go over to Thailand," said a police intelligence operative based at the border area.
"It depends on the capabilities of the tattoo artists," he said.
He added that in line with Ops Cantas Khas, the police had stepped up intelligence work here.
It is also learnt that Malaysian police are negotiating with their Thai counterparts on the possibility of conducting a joint operation in the area to flush out suspects who have links to the underworld in both nations.