The “Death” of Nattawud

Nattawud with his wife and baby being filmed by a Taiwanese television crew who were making a documentary about their life. This is the last known photograph of the family together. It was taken about two months ago.

I wrote a blog a few weeks back on how to choose a Thai Name. In this blog, I explained how Nattawud and his wife chose the name for their baby daughter. I also mentioned, that although this was done correctly, a year later circumstances had changed that now made her name unlucky. So, a new name had to be chosen. I will talk about this now as well as a surprise bombshell that Nattawud dropped on my lap this morning.

Nattawud is a familiar face on the Internet. He has been writing about the ups and downs of his life on his popular web site since the age of 12. It started as a small six page school project and has turned into an internationally acclaimed site that has been featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines from around the world.

Left, Nattawud being interviewed by a Fox News camera team for a documentary about drugs in Thailand. Right, Nattawud on the Morning Talk chat show for the second time

Nattawud has never been shy about revealing everything to the world. His sincerity has made him popular. About 4000 people read about his life everyday. For people interested in Thai culture his web site has just about everything. He has also chronicled his downfall into drug addiction which you can read about at His drug interviews have been used in schools across Europe and America. It has also been translated into Chinese and used in schools in mainland China.

When Nattawud reached the age of 16, he started work at the Bangkok Post as their youngest columnist. For over two years he wrote about his life in more than 100 stories. You can read these on the internet at They provide a fascinating glimpse into the troubled world of a Thai teenager. He wrote about everything. Drug addiction, gambling, abortion, grand larceny, underage sex, motorcycle racing, teenage parenting and a lot more. All of this he wrote from a personal point of view.

What many people didn’t know, was that his life was again spiraling out of control and he once again became addicted to drugs. This was at the time when the government were doing a witch hunt which resulted in over 2000 deaths. His name was on a blacklist and he went into hiding fearing for his life. It was at this stage that he started missing deadlines for his columns. The Bangkok Post were keen to keep him on as his column had a large readership. However, after about 2-3 months of this, both sides agreed to stop running the column.

Everything seemed to be going wrong with his life at that time. If you having been reading his columns, you would know that every time it looked like life was good, something happened to bring him down. Readers will remember how he kept crashing his motorbike. Even asking the monk to bless it didn’t work. Eventually he had to sell it to pay off his gambling debts. His marriage was also on the rocks. They had arguments a lot and split up a number of times. Until finally, a few months ago, she left him for the last time.

Left, Nattawud receiving a blessing for his motorcycle from a monk. Right, Nattawud receiving a birthday cake from his grandmother, the person who he calls “mum”

Their daughter, Chanakarn, was living with his parents at the time and remains there still today. She calls her grandparents “mum and dad” and Nattawud by his name. Naturally it hurt him that she might grow up never knowing that he is the real father.

It was at this stage that Nattawud’s aunt stepped in. She announced that her astrologer had told her that the name “Chanakarn” is unlucky for his circumstances. If she continues with this name then, according to the astrologer, she wouldn’t have a father in the future. As Nattawud’s family believe in this kind of superstition greatly, they decided to change her name. She is now called Juthasorn.

Two months have now passed. Nattawud has been in touch with his wife a few times but there has been no sign of a reconciliation. However, he is now a lot closer to his daughter visiting her nearly everyday at his parents’ house. This situation may not be as strange as it first seems. In fact, Nattawud himself was brought up by his grandmother until he was about ten years old. His parents were busy working and only saw him at the wekeend. Today he still calls his grandmother “mum”.

Then came the bombshell. This morning, Nattawud came into work flashing a brand new i.d. card. “You shouldn’t call me Nattawud any more. That person doesn’t exist any more. I have changed my name!” You did what? I said. “My aunt persuaded me that I should change my name.” He said. “She changed her name a few years ago and has had good luck ever since. So, she asked her astrologer for a new name for me. My new name is Panrit! It means a thousands powers.”

OK, changing the baby’s name is one thing. But an adult? I was flabbergasted at first. But, on second thoughts, I have been in Thailand long enough to know that these methods can really work. After all, if you believe in something strongly enough then it could happen. However, doesn’t changing names create a new set of problems? For a start, what does he do with his web site?

Then there are all the friends and customers from around the world that know him as Nattawud. Over the years his name has come to mean something. Customers to Thai Hypermarket know and trust him. If he starts signing letters with his new name wouldn’t the customers think someone else is now running the shop?

Then there is his web site. In the opening paragraph he says, “Hello, my name is Nattawud Daoruang”. Should he now change that to “Hello, my name is Panrit Daoruang, I used to be called Nattawud.” However, if he makes a link between his old name and his present name, then surely the bad spirits would find him and continue to give him bad luck? “Don’t be stupid.” said Nattawud (or is it Panrit?). “The bad spirits cannot surf the internet. They don’t know how to!” Oh. I said. But, how do they know that you have a different name now? Do they go around checking the names on i.d. cards? Does a new name mean a fresh start just because they don’t have you on their records?

I am not convinced. But, I know one thing for sure. It will take me a little while to get used to calling him Panrit!

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