One of the most distinguished musicians of our age, a conductor and pianist, is Russian. Despite a performance schedule with most weeks booked for performances around the world up to three years in advance, he had been coming to Thailand for about 10 days two or sometime three times a year or thereabouts en route to concerts in Japan or wherever. Since his family was from the far north of Russia. he had determined if he ever made decent money he would find a warm place to be a sort of occasional bolt hole where he could fish, learn to fly and generally be unknown to anyone. Having won the world of music’s most prestigious competition in the late 1970s, for many he became a household name. There would be few countries where he would not be recognised. Freedom in such circumstances is a rare commodity.
After several plane changes in Bangkok, he decided to see a bit of the country. Eventually he found a house in a village well into the dark side of Pattaya. A lover of badminton, he financed the building of a sports complex for the villagers with five air conditioned badminton courts and a 25-meter swimming pool. Before the internet became universal, he frequented a nearby internet café to keep in contact with his friends and his manager in Switzerland. As usual, the café had many youngsters playing games on the computers and a few acting as part-time assistants. Over time the musician got to know the café owner and at one point started talking about his career.
To cut what is a very long story shorter, this musician whom I shall call Mike was arrested by a posse of police in mid-year. There was no charge at that stage. In Thailand, if someone is suspected of a crime, the police must question him. However, if he cannot be found after two attempts, the police must go to a judge for an arrest warrant. Being very rarely in the country, the police understandably could not find him. Hence the arrest warrant.
The evidence provided to him was that a complaint had been made by the mother of a 15-year old boy (the boy’s father had disappeared many years earlier). The complaint alleged the boy had been sexually molested by Mike, once in December the previous year when he was 14 and once the following February. Yet the complaint was made only in April. After agreeing to go to the police station, Mike was asked if the police could search his car and his house. He agreed. Subsequently the newspapers provided lurid claims of what had been found in the house. These claims were all later proved to be entirely false.
Any case of sexual molestation of a minor is extremely serious. In Thailand it carries a jail sentence of around 15 years. Being a very wealthy man, Mike could have bought himself out of everything with a very large payment to the powers-that-be that evening. He elected not to do so. He elected to fight the case as he claimed he was completely innocent.
Then this entire saga becomes extremely murky. First his bail was set at around Bt. 300,000. How many times in such cases involving a farang would bail have been set at anything less than many millions, I wonder? None, I venture to suggest! Second, at the first appearance before a judge, Mike was permitted to leave the country for a prior concert engagement in Europe, subject to his returning every 12 days for bail renewal hearings. Once again, how many times have farang pedophile suspects been permitted to retain their passports and leave the country? Rarely, if ever! Mike left and returned five times. And would not a guilty person simply have failed to return?
Because, as is the custom in this country, the police had been accompanied in making the arrest by a gaggle of media, the news soon hit the world’s major media. Every newspaper of note from New Zealand going all the way west to Hawaii prominently posted the story, many on the front pages. Not the true detail of the story, of course. Only what they had been fed by the police. This internationally known musician was branded a pedophile long before justice had taken its course. He was then stripped of one of his conducting posts and had to cancel engagements at several of the world’s top Music Festivals and concert halls.
True to his word, he had elected to face Thai justice. He returned from various parts of the world at his expense for the mandatory six bail renewal hearings. After the first there were forty members of the media waiting for him outside the court. After the others, there would be a slightly lesser string of correspondents. The Russians were particularly in evidence and, according to one well-placed source, he was being “crucified” in the Russian press. After a sixth bail hearing, under Thai law the police have either to hand their evidence over to the public prosecutor or inform the judge that the accused has no case to answer.
At that final hearing, the police informed the judge there was no case. Mike was therefore no longer subject to any court proceedings. Given the international interest in the case, he left the court a free man expecting to see a large media gathering. Absolutely no one was there! It has to be obvious that someone in a higher authority had ordered the media to keep well clear of the courthouse that particular morning. Despite the Thai newspapers having splashed the news of Mike’s arrest some months earlier, despite the No. 2 in the Immigration Department having called for his being banned from Thailand for soiling the country’s international reputation (odd remark that, since had the police kept the arrest quiet, there would have been absolutely no slur on the country’s reputation!), and despite the massive damage to Mike’s international reputation, there was a news blackout on the case being dropped. It was only some months later that a news release from one of his orchestras stated the case had been thrown out. That was never contradicted by any official in Thailand and never made the media in most other countries.
Interestingly, a year later Mike was conducting a concert in Moscow’s most venerated concert hall, the Tchaikovsky Hall. In the middle of the stalls was a row of seats reserved for VIPs and VVIPs. One of the last to arrive was none other than the Ambassador to Thailand and his wife. After the concert, they went backstage to congratulate Mike! Does anyone believe that this could have happened if Mike still remained under suspicion of the crime he was first alleged to have committed in Thailand? Of course not! And before someone asks how I know this, I was at that concert in Moscow!
So the question remains unanswered: who set Mike up? It had to be a set up because at any time from the moment of his arrest he could have coughed up more than sufficient funds to make the case disappear. Instead he chose to go through what must for him have been an horrendous and ghastly process that saw his name vilified and his career severely damaged. But who?
Pattaya’s Russian mafia seemed an obvious target. Mike was a friend of Gorbachev, Putin and Medvedev, a trio least likely to enjoy much camaraderie with a mafia. Such a suggestion, though, cannot be proved. More likely, in my book, the finger of blame points directly to the internet cafe owner. About three months before Mike’s arrest, this man was about to be arrested but disappeared. His crime? Running a pedophile ring for expats and western tourists in Pattaya, one that involved both pimping underage boys and making videos of them, encrypting the videos and distributing them through his internet café. Mike’s accuser was involved in this business. The café owner is on record admitting he had had sex with this same boy around 20 times (I cannot find evidence now of the exact number of times but I recall it to have been around 20). This man was eventually found and arrested a few days before the police turned up to arrest Mike.
It is also I believe no mere coincidence that the boy’s mother just happened to make her complaint to the Womens and Childrens Protection Agency when the café owner’s arrest warrant was issued. That organization does truly excellent work around the country. And when a complaint is made, it is duty bound to report it to the police. If the boy did not tell his mother after the first alleged incident in December or again after the second alleged incident in February, how come he just happened to do so prior to the issuing of the warrant for the café owner’s arrest? Then after he was apprehended, might the café owner have dropped the name of a major international figure – an action which more or less coincided with Thailand’s request to the United Nations for additional funds to fight pedophilia – in the hope of obtaining a lighter sentence? At the same time, Thailand could prove to the UN how vigilant it was in fighting such crimes. We do not know, but it remains a question that requires an answer.
So this café owner would have been placed under the securest form of arrest – yes? Well, no! For soon after Mike’s arrest, he was somehow able to elude police custody and flee. He was eventually re-arrested some eight months later.
This was the report in the Pattaya Daily News on March 3 (now unavailable online but quoted from the earlier thread in this forum) -
With the use of an arrest/search warrant officers busted Mr. Bunphasong whilst he was riding his motorbike in Soi Khaotalo, Pattaya. A search of his motorbike at the scene uncovered a lewd photograph of him and a young boy involved in an intimate pose at which point he was immediately arrested.
Officers presented Mr. Bunphasong with the arrest/search warrant and proceeded to his residence/business. At the premises, an internet café with above residence, officers confiscated a hard-drive, memory card and handy drive all containing various forms of pornography involving young boys between the ages of 9-15. Documentation pertaining to a pornography business were also confiscated in the search.
Under interrogation, Mr. Bunphasong confessed to being an agent soliciting minors, primarily young boys, to a largely foreign clientele. He also confessed to having sold lewd photographs involving minors to overseas-based pornography websites. Mr. Bunphasong has been charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor under 15-years-old, deceiving minors into performing indecent acts, soliciting prostitution of a minor and illegal detention of a minor without parental consent.
But once again we are forced to ask the question: was his earlier escape mere incompetence on the part of his custodians or was it, just perhaps, convenience? Had the police realised by this stage they had made an almighty blunder?
One day someone living outside Thailand will write the full story of this case. For it still has so many odd little tangents which turn up very curious facts. Some I cannot mention publicly – indeed no one living here can. One I can is that for some years Mike had had a Thai boyfriend in his mid-20s whom he took on holiday to Europe on more than one occasion. A photograph of the two of them on holiday was one of the items in his house photographed by the media and splashed all over the world. Although this is mere speculation, doesn’t it seem odd that someone in a long relationship with another in his mid to late 20s should be playing around with considerably underage teens?
After the case became public, few were convinced of Mike’s innocence. ThaiVisa had a huge string of vitriolic comments, largely stating the view that where there is smoke there must be fire. Facts did not matter to those posters. But I believe facts do matter. And I believe that in this particular case, the actions of Thai law enforcement and some of its high officials were a total disgrace.