A bit of a gruelling week last week. Flew up to Chiang Mai for CBC to cover the verdict and judgement on the policeman accused of murdering backpacker Leo del Pinto in Pai, Mae Hong Son in 2008 while keeping one eye on the mischief making of our notorious American Mr. Noyes.
I have been speaking to Leo’s father Ernie for 5 years and it was good to meet him at last. The problem of course was that he was in the care of the Canadian Embassy. Now it’s pretty much my view that all Embassies are now pretty wary of the press. It seems even associating with consular staff nowadays sends them hunting for their paracetamols.
Now this of course can have its magic moments. Armed with that knowledge it’s quite easy to, well, have a little fun.
Initially I had requested on behalf of CBC for an interview with the Canadian Ambassador, of if not that, just to film Ernie and Clara, Leo’s parents, meeting him. The interview was secondary. This set off a flurry of telegrams to Ottawa, as this was not a decision which could be taken locally.
Two hours before the scheduled meeting, back came the reply no. But it at least saved me a trip into the city as there was no point in filming their visit as the Embassy is on the 15th floor of a high rise.
Now at this point I have to say that the del Pinto family were more than happy with the arrangements laid on by the Canadian civil servants, but they were stuck with an itinerary, which was pretty tight.
I flew up to Chiang Mai with cameraman David so we could film them in transit and on arrival. At Chiang Mai we had booked a vehicle to be brought to our hotel, but that meant we had no vehicle to the city centre (a mere 150 baht limo ride).
Just for a joke I told David to see if he could get a lift in the Canadian van, which was of course half empty.
“That will not be possible,” said the Canadian diplomat, “Its a conflict of interest,” she said. ‘But don’t we have the same interest in going to the same hotel?’ No reply.
Ernie told me later he felt a little uncomfortable.
After the verdict and filming the family the following day we met up with the del pintos again, this time at the Raming Tea House in Chiang Mai. The programme, which I was able to have a glance at only, gave sketchy details, but I got the full gen from Dr. Surasee Kosolnavin, former Human Rights Commissioner.
We duly arrived ahead of schedule and as we had time to kill I asked David to park his legs (the camera tripod) in the tea room they had hired while we went off for a bowl of noodles each.
‘Do you mind if I leave these here?” asked David of the Canadian consular official. “If you really have to,” came back the reply. The sour look on David’s face as he turned towards me set me up in a fit of laughter.
We pulled out of the trip to Pai as unfortunately for the CBC this was a one day story – but with the Embassy growlers running the show a wet weekend in Stornoway seemed more attractive.
This was all rounded off however in Bangkok where the Canadian Embassy had arranged for the del pintos to meet the senior DSI officials at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok for tea and petits fours. And this, I have to say, was really the icing on the cake.
No details were supplied to the press but I rang up the DSI and they invited me along.
|Clara, Ernie, Embassy interpreter and Piyawate from the DSI|
As I arrived a very nice ‘afternoon tea attendant’ pulled up a chair for me next to Ernie and I joined in the conversation. Glancing over to the consular rep I could see she was not a happy bunny at all.
Ernie was asking questions so I chipped in with a couple as well. They were met with a stony silence from the interpreter. So I asked them myself in Thai.
Within minutes I looked up from my, er, petit four, to see that the Canadian Embassy’s interpreter and consular official had upped and left and were sitting on the other side of the room.
|Talking to Piyawate Kingkate of the DSI|
I was left to do the interpreting, which I thought I muddled through quite well. And it was good to meet the DSI guys again, one of whom has been transferred to, er, Pattaya.
Said Ernie grinning afterwards as he thrust a wad of notes in my hand. “They said they are not allowed to be there if the press were there too – conflict of interest!”
“Here take this. It’s the least I can do for all the work you have put in for us and Leo.”
Ernie’s generous donation paid for the final work on the Thai version of ‘Men in Suits and Influential People’.
What a lovely man…but oh I wish foreign consular officials in Bangkok could relax a bit. It seems there are so many regulations that the best thing to do is say nothing. That way they cannot say anything wrong and the public cannot complain. It’s perfect logic.
As I may have previously reported I used to meet the British Deputy Head of Mission down in the Safari Bar in Patpong, an Australian Ambassador and standby ‘blood donor’ to the Princess Royal (Streuth I’m not sure she should have my blood!) was also a frequenter of the street of shame. Clearly I am not p.c.
But give me ‘Life on Mars’ any time.
My hell in Thailand – by Ernie del Pinto