Is it really her own work?

New Thaksin book has cynics questioning army author Sunisa Lertpakawat's work

Bangkok Post
Monday, August 6, 2007

By Kultida Samabuddhi
Did Sunisa Lertpakawat really write the book Thaksin, Where Are You? totally of her own volition and simply as a straight record of the life of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra since the Sept 19 coup?

This question has been circling around in many people's minds since the story of Lt Sunisa's unauthorised trip to Britain and her first book made the headlines last week.

The 235-page book is a transcription of two exclusive interviews with Mr Thaksin at his luxurious serviced apartment in London, plus a separate interview with his son, Panthongtae, whom she describes as a "sincere guy," at a famous Thai restaurant in June.

Sceptics may find the answer for themselves by reading the 185-baht book, which is divided into four parts -- Finally We Met; Thaksin's Life Overseas; Thaksin's Tomorrow; and The Author's Secret.

Part I: Finally We Met gives details about the writer's adventurous and entertaining journey to Britain in search of Mr Thaksin's new home.

"It is located in the heart of London with a blue house number on the front, that's all the information I have," she writes as she heads to Europe to seek out the former prime minister now in self-imposed exile.

As she carefully scans the row of buildings from the window of a London city bus, she suddenly spots a Chinese-looking man standing on the roadside.

"That's Oak [Panthongtae]. It's definitely him. He was standing in front of a building with a blue house number on it! I try to get off the bus, but unfortunately this is not a Bangkok bus, which you can jump off of at anytime, anywhere," she writes.

After finding Mr Thaksin's home, Lt Sunisa manages to meet the ousted prime minister's assistant, who tells her that he is not at the apartment and promises to inform his boss about her extraordinary mission.

But Lt Sunisa, in a T-shirt and shorts, refuses to give up and spent several hours waiting for her "target" to come home.

"It was so cold outside the apartment. I couldn't believe this was London's summertime," she writes.

Defeated by the chilly weather, the reporter decides to retreat and go back to her low-budget hotel. But she comes back the next day and finally meets her man.

"My heart was beating really fast, my hands were shaking, my brain was only thinking about the first words that I should say to him. I picked up my backpack, grabbed a video camera and ran towards a deep-blue Rolls-Royce.

"A man in a blue suit and black leather shoes stepped out of the sedan. It's him -- Thaksin Shinawatra," she writes, as she describes the moment she finally meets him.

"Mr Thaksin, I would like to interview you for my first pocket book. I travelled a long way from Thailand and used up all my savings for this project," she says to Mr Thaksin. The man replies: "It's not a good time. Those people are watching me and more importantly, I want to live a quiet life."

She says she almost cried after listening to his response, but kept pestering him. "I want to run a small publishing house and it will be nice if the first book is about you," she told him.

The dialogue goes on for some time until Mr Thaksin eventually says: "I'm busy today. Let's do it tomorrow."

Part II: Thaksin's Life Overseas is the longest, most important, and perhaps most controversial part of the book.

It is divided into 13 chapters filled with a variety of stories about the deposed prime minister -- including his leisure time, his luxurious lifestyle outside of Thailand, his business activities, clarification of rumours about his relations with certain celebrities, flashbacks to the Sept 19 coup and his family life after the coup,

He also talks about his high-profile purchase of English football club Manchester City and his political future. Readers who are eager to know about Mr Thaksin's personal and romantic life might enjoy reading the parts about his relationships with his "young companion" -- the so-called Queen of Thai R&B, Saranrat Wisutthithada, better known as Lydia, and sexy singer Mai Charoenpura. But for the coup makers, the most interesting bits of information reside in Chapter 11, "In Japan with Oak and Lydia".

Contrary to the chapter's title, there are only three pages of stories about Mr Thaksin's trip to Japan with his son and Lydia, while 15 pages are filled up with the ousted prime minister's aggressive reactions to the Assets Scrutiny Committee's freezing of his assets, the Constitution Tribunal's verdict on the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai, and allegations that he has been financing the anti-coup movement, led by PTV.

"You are interviewing a poor guy today," Lt Sunisa quotes Mr Thaksin as saying during the second interview which took place right after the ASC began freezing his and his family's assets.

"Although he tries to remain light-hearted, deep down in his eyes, I feel his hidden pain," she writes.

"Where will you get the money to spend now?" she asks him.

"I have some money in my savings accounts, but..." he pauses. "By the way, I think I can manage it."

When the author asked him what he would do following the freezing of his assets, Mr Thaksin said he would return to Thailand to clear himself, but he didn't know when.

"They don't have the legal authority to do this. The asset freezing procedure was not based on the law, but on political motivation ... They don't understand. This is my money. They have no right to meddle," Mr Thaksin is quoted as saying in the book.

Mr Thaksin also recalls the day when he learned the Constitution Tribunal dissolved his Thai Rak Thai party for electoral fraud, banning him and the other 110 party executives from seeking political office for five years.

"I did not watch the televised reading of the verdict. Someone just informed me on the phone. I understand the feelings of our supporters, but Lord Buddha said nothing is permanent," he said.

In the latter section of Part II, he talks about the moment he was ousted by Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin in the military coup. "I was in New York, where I was attending the United Nations assembly. When the military were staging the coup d'etat, I was resting in my hotel room. I wasn't aware such an incident would happen. I had just held a tele-cabinet meeting that morning," he said.

The first thing he did after learning of the coup was call Channel 9 to announce a state of emergency, but the signal was cut before he finished reading the announcement, he says in the book. "At that time, I learned that the coup makers successfully seized all television channels and when I knew that they had an audience with His Majesty the King, I realised that [the coup d'etat] was completed.

"I went to bed and had a very deep sleep," he recalled.

Unlike Mr Thaksin, his beloved family was busy seeking safehouses as the military took to the streets of Bangkok in tanks.

Thaksin's son, Mr Panthongtae, tells her of his experience of the coup during their interview in London.

"I went shopping at a Buddhist amulet market on Sept 19 last year. Around 5pm, my mother's secretary called and told me to go home, but while I was on the way, my mother called and told me to go somewhere else because our home might not be safe. I decided to go to my condominium in the Sathorn area," she quotes him as saying.

"Around five in the morning I went to see my mother and my sister at a house of my sister's friend. After the coup, we slept at other people's houses for a few days. We did not go to Singapore as the media reported. The three of us stayed in Bangkok all the time until we flew to see Dad in the UK. We went to Suvarnabhumi airport and simply caught the plane, nobody seemed to care about us at that time."

Part III: Thaksin's Tomorrow wraps up with Mr Thaksin's life at the moment and his future plans.

A fighter like Mr Thaksin cannot rest for long. Besides working as new chairman of Manchester City football club and a special lecturer at Takushoku University in Japan, he has also been appointed by a group of Middle Eastern businessmen as chairman of a newly set up fund for Asian investment.

Part IV: The Author's Secret is a personal diary of sorts by Lt Sunisa, describing the hardships and troubles she came across during her "first pocket book project".

"This is the most difficult job in my life. There were so many obstacles that made me feel so bad that I wanted to scrap the whole project.

"I fell terribly ill after returning to Thailand, but I still had to work on the draft, which had to be changed so many times due to the changing political situation.

"I had to correct the content until the last second before it went to the printing machine. This book might cost me a regular job because I was absent from work for too long. But whether it was right or wrong, I chose to do it and am ready to accept the consequences," she writes.