A Mix-up of Good & Bad, Famous Thais Who Fled (Part 2)

(Former fugitive murder suspect Duangchalerm meeting up not so long back with another current fugitive, former PM Thaksin)

Well, apologies first for that slight delay (mostly due to Richard’s continued updates on the political situation and innumerable day trips) with part two of those who fled, got the red card or were forced to leave to country (a mixture of both goodies and baddies). Sure, this list is not complete, There are others who include: Thailand’s first prime minister Phraya Manopakorn Nittida, Thailand’s original folk band Caravan, Drug-dealing Bang Ron and the previous God-father of Chonburi province, Kamnan Poh. Numbers 1 and 2 below simply skipped the country while 3-5 arguably had no choice. Number 1 in Part One was none other than the infamous ex-monk Phra Yantra who got a decent write-up, while in this, Part Two, a legendary modern-day fugitive wins hands down, one that did return however, the one and only, Duangchalerm.

1. Duangchalerm Yoobumroong (Duang)

For anyone who was a fan of Bangkok’s nightlife a decade or so back, just the name Chalerm was enough to make your hair stand on end in fright. Duangchalerm and his lovely brothers Antharnchalerm and Wanchalerm were once the most feared night-time party-goers in Thailand. Never a month went by in the late 1990s when the 3 brothers were not in the news for completely destroying a bar, causing complete chaos in a disco or attacking a bunch of poor blokes with a crate of beer bottles (apparently cause one of the victims hadn’t shown one of the 3 lovely brothers enough respect). As for the cops they were as afraid of the 3 lads as much as the locals, but then again who would dare mess with 3 sons of the ‘Godfather of Bang Bon’ Mr Chalerm himself (recent Minister of Interior). For a short time the lads sorted themselves out and Wanchalerm and Antharn became army officials. Unfortunately for them however, a leading politician (Maj-Gen Sanan) appeared on TV one day with a copy of all the counterfeit documents the Godfather’s sons had used to get into the army. And they were soon booted out. Even before Duangchalerm fled the country a little later, the Internet was full of gossip concerning their Godfather dad who had apparently been in The US for 6 months after having been scolded by the land’s most famous son, Prince Vajiralongkorn. As gossip went, it was Wanchalerm who was to blame.

The 3 sons were finally banned from all night-time venues, after their father had supposedly actually ordered the police to get tough on his sons. All went quiet. That was, until a night in October 2001, when a policeman was shot at point-blank range in Twenty Pub Discotheque in Bangkok. Co-incidentally, just a few minutes before being shot in the head, the unlucky cop had been brawling with Duangchalerm in front of tens of onlookers/witnesses in the middle of the disco. A warrant for Duangchalerm arrest was ordered but the geezer had disappeared and for the next 6 months, he was Thailand’s most-wanted fugitive. All eyes were upon his dad, but the godfather claimed he knew nothing. Thailand’s The Nation Newspaper started their Find the Fugitive campaign and each day a big mugshot of Duang appeared on the paper’s front page, including the amount of days the fugitive had been on the run for printed in bold underneath.

In those 6 months, there were more sightings of Duangchalerm supposedly sneaking around Bangkok dressed like Al Capone in shades and sporting a Bay City Rollers wig than there were of Elvis in Mexico (and that takes some beating). Out of the blue one day, charming mother’s boy Duang showed up at the Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and handed himself over to the authorities before being whisked back to face an obvious lengthy time behind bars. Quite incredibly though, Duang only spent one single night behind bars before being released on bail. And fortunately for him, during those 6 months in away, all the eye-witnesses had come down with serious memory lapse and couldn’t remember a thing. In fact, every single person involved, had somehow completely forgotten about what actually that night and Duang was, on judgment day, found not guilty due to none other than ‘lack of evidence’.

Nowadays, Duang is a public official and his brother Wan is back in the army. Even this year, the two brothers have been in and out of the news because of their well-placed jobs supposedly offered to them by the one and only recent prime minster Samak. All brothers have been renamed, taking out the word Chalerm from their given names, so Duangchalerm is now known as simply Duang.

(A map showing the escape route to Cambodia taken by fugitive former politician & the Godfather of Paknam, Vadhana Asahame. Pic from www.2bangkok.com

2. Vadhana Asavahame

Vadhana (Vatana or Wattana) is part of Samut Prakarn province’s very own Asavahame clan which has been embedded within Samut Prakarn politics for decades. In 2002, the Pollution Control Department lodged a complaint with the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) accusing Vadhana of abusing his power as deputy interior minister 16 years previous. He had supposedly conspired with land and pollution control officials in the illegal issuance of title deeds for 1,900 rai of public land that was then sold at an inflated price to the Pollution Control Department for construction of the 23-billion-baht Klong Dan wastewater-treatment facility in Samut Prakan’s Bang Bo district. It had supposedly taken 15 years for them to build up enough evidence to get Vadhana busted for sure.

In fact, previous to this, Vadhana had been involved in numerous cases involving corruption such as: fraud, vote-buying, local election-rigging and land encroachment. In August this year, Vadhana was sentenced to 10 years in prison but cunningly didn’t bother showing up for the judge’s decision. Instead, Vadhana fled the scene and like Duangchalerm and Plaek Phibulsongkram, took the popular Bkk>Koh Kong (Cambodia) route. According to witnesses, Vadhana is currently residing in the casino cowboy capital of South-East Asia, the shanty Khmer/Thai border town of Poipet. Sipping a glass of the local Khmer hooch and playing a round of black-jack, he can feel chuffed knowing that the two countries have no repatriation treaty.

Similar to Chalerm Yoobumrung, members of his unruly family have also been frequent involuntary visitors to the local cop shop. His son Chonsawas the mayor of Samut Prakran province, got himself into trouble last year when it was reported that he had been recklessly drinking and driving, before failing to stop for a breath-test and ending up with him and his handy-men beating-up and illegally detaining a police officer while completely recking police property. Not quite the kind of behaviour expected of a provincial mayor!

(At last a pic of a couple of nice guys who were forced to flee, Pridi Panomyong (right) and Puey Ungpakorn (left) in London together 1974)

3. Pridi Panomyong

Born a Thai-Chinese, Pridi was sent over to France to study law in the 1920s and it was there that he met up with a bunch of other Thai ‘intellectuals’ who would later permanently change the political future of Thailand. Pridi and one of his then best buddies Plaek Phibulsongkram were instrumental in the bloodless revolution of 1932 which overthrew absolute monarchy and ended 150 years of the Chakri Dynasty having total power. During the Second World War, Pridi seriously fell out with his old school mate Pro-Japanese Plaek Phibulsongkram who was then Prime Minister. It was Pridi himself who refused to declare war against the allied powers and instead established the ultra-secret Seri Thai Movement and adopted the codename ‘Ruth’.

After the Second World War and the demise of Plaek Phibulsongkram as prime minister, Pridi got the top job instead in March of 1946. By this time, Pridi and Plaek were arch-enemies and later that year Plaek reportedly took his revenge and spearheaded an attack against Pridi, blaming him for orchestrating the murder of King Rama 8. Shortly after, Pridi was forced to step-down and again Pleak came back. After a failed coup in 1949, Pridi fled the country for China and later settled in France. He never did return to Thailand and died in France in 1983. Pridi is remembered for founding Thamasart University, drafting the land’s first constitution, giving women the right to vote, abolishing unfair taxes of the poor, establishing a national bank and bringing in social welfare and social security.

4. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII)

King Prajadhiphok came to the throne at the time of huge political activity and revolutionist visions in Siam. His father King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) managed to sustain the monarchy in a positive light but during the reign of Rama VI potential revolutionists made their desires more apparent. Prajadhiphok did not come to the throne at a healthy time; the idea of absolute monarchy was coming to an end. On June 24 1932, while the King was vacationing in his summer palace in Hua Hin (ironically named the ‘Palace of Worries Far Away’) a coup to end absolute monarchy successfully ensured that Rama VII was Siam’s last ever absolute monarch.

The unsuccessful 1933 Royalist revolt against the government led by Prince Bovoradej only meant that the King’s powers and influence were even more quashed. Prajadhiphok’s relationship with the newly-formed government went from bad to worse and during the King’s time in London in 1935, he abdicated and exiled. Prajadhiphok never did return to Thailand and instead went on to lead a simple life in the English countryside where he was able to enjoy in peace his favourite hobby of gardening. His wife did however, bring back his ashes to Thailand in 1949. He had died in 1941.

5. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab

Born a son to Rama V, Damrong, known as the Father of Modern Thai Education, arguably goes down as one of the most influential persons in modern Thai history. When Damrong became Minister of Education in 1890, he created Thailand’s first ‘fast learning text book’ and introduced the likes of illustrations, rhymes and songs to use as teaching aids within the Thai education system instead of the usual memorization techniques utilized by the monks in the land’s temple schools. In the early 1900s, Damrong established a school for the royal attendants converting the old Suan Kularb Palace into the now prestigious Suan Kularb School.

Damrong was a ferocious writer and wrote more than one thousands books on a variety of topics, many of them now regarded as national resources and compulsory reading for students of Thai history. In fact, Damrong personally toured the country’s schools to instruct the teachers on how to teach his educational materials. In the 1920s he founded the country’s first National Library and brought in international experts from Europe and other Asian countries to assist him in developing volumes of reference material. He was also instrumental in developing the National Museum.

With the events of 1932, after having served his country for 56 years, the prince was ousted from all his governmental positions, and like many other royals, he was forced to flee the country. He left two major projects unfinished, the National Library and the National Picture Museum. Just before his death in 1942, he was allowed to return to Thailand after spending his days in exile in Penang, Malaysia.

Until this day, many historians argue the credibility of some of Damrong’s Thai history books and writings which are still used in Thai schools. Most controversial of all have been Damrong’s interpretation of Siam/Burmese history and especially the during the era of King Naresuan. Whatever, in 1962, UNESCO bestowed upon him the award of ‘World’s Most Valuable Person’; the first Thai ever to receive the title.

Part One can be found here: Not Just Thaksin: Other Famous Thais Who Have Fled

6 responses to “A Mix-up of Good & Bad, Famous Thais Who Fled (Part 2)