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Durian offer stinks, actress turns beggar, lawyer's vow

Suitors suffer let-down

Anont and Kansita 'Kan' Rotthong

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The Chumpon durian trader who offered 10 million baht and ownership of the family business to any man who took his daughter's hand in marriage and agreed to carry on the firm has come under fire after calling off the arrangement.

Anont Rotthong, 58, made the offer on Facebook last week, then abruptly called it off after young suitors here and offshore swamped his family with offers to marry his daughter Kansita (Kan), 26.

Critics have accused him of duping the public to draw publicity to his durian business, with one high profile lawyer suggesting disappointed suitors file complaints with police.

Mr Anont offered the successful suitor the cash, 10 vehicles, a house, two durian markets and his daughter who graduated with honours from Assumption University. He invited suitors to gather at Talad Nern Soong in Chanthaburi on April 1 for the chance to join the family.

The young man would have to be trialled in the durian business for three months. However, if Mr Anont liked what he saw, and the young couple hit it off, he would hand over the business he had built for 20 years. He wanted to retire but was worried he would have no successor unless his daughter found a husband soon.

By Wednesday, however, Mr Anont had called off the arrangement, pleading with suitors and an eager media to leave them alone. He asked suitors to make no further contact by phone or the internet, and also called off the April 1 meeting at the market, though those really determined to get to know his daughter could always turn up and introduce themselves.

Mr Anont said he and his family had been overwhelmed with interest, with 100,000 suitors making contact, not to mention journalists who were planning to charter a flight to be there for the big day on April 1. Chinese media had translated Thai news reports on his offer, with one story at the popular Weibo site attracting 100 million views in the first day, and an accompanying clip 10 million views.

Mr Anont said his original target of the post was 20-30 close friends in the industry, but taking all the calls which the publicity brought in was affecting his ability to run his business.

He was also worried that if the April 1 gathering went ahead as planned, the venue would strain to cope with the crowds and fights could break out among jealous suitors. He apologised to those who he had let down but thought it best to call the whole thing off. In hindsight, he thought any pairing involving his daughter should take place naturally.

Among those who put up his hand was Premyosapol "Geo" Khongsai, 28, a masters graduate from Thammasat University and market gardener. He said he gave up an office job in Bangkok a few years ago to help his family run their farm in Trat where they grow palm, rubber and durian crops over 400-500 rai.

"When I look at Mr Anont I see many aspects of myself," he said hopefully, saying he was not afraid of hard work but would shy from turning up for the suitors' meet as being picked from a crowd was not his thing. He intended making contact with Kan via social media.

However, his chances took an immediate blow when, appearing on a TV show last week with his daughter and shown pictures of Mr Geo, Mr Anont declared the young man was too handsome to win his daughter's hand as he was bound to stray. "In my eyes, he fails to pass," he said, while his daughter declared: "I think he's cute." Mr Geo later withdrew from the race, saying love was too sensitive a matter to be subject to some public culling process.

Meanwhile, responding to news that Mr Anont had called off his offer, high profile lawyer Decha Kittiwithiyanan linked his case to that of a lottery vendor, "Pete Pangtaek", who claimed falsely that a customer had bought a 90 million winning ticket at his stand, which led to a surge of customer interest. He later admitted the story was fake and is now facing legal action.

"Suitors unhappy with Mr Anont's decision could lay a complaint with police," he said.

However, a former mayor in Chumpon and ex-business partner of the durian magnate has defended him, saying he is sure Mr Anont's offer was genuine.

Atthaya Wiriyawat, former mayor of Lang Suan municipality in Chumpon, and co-investor with Mr Anont in the Uay Chai market, said he had known Mr Anont for 30 years. "While he has a wild streak, he is genuine. I am sure he was appealing to his friends in the industry, in the manner of people from the South who try to persuade the young sons of their friends to marry their daughters and join the family."

Mr Atthaya said he thinks it was a shame that Mr Anont called it off. If he had held it at Uay Chai market the traders there could have hosted them all and put on a meal. His friend would be meeting his future son-in-law after all.

"I was preparing to get my youngest son to apply. If Anont had chosen him, I was prepared to throw in family assets worth tens of millions to compete with him on their wedding day," he joked.

A friend in her hour of need

Actress Nida "Tangmo" Patcharaveerapong has come forward to help a former starlet who has turned to begging after falling prey to drugs, but cautioned her against trying to re-enter the industry.

Tangmo was among those to express their shock after images emerged of former actress, singer and model Manatsanan "Tai" Pandee, shaven-headed, thin and wearing rags, living in a lean-to next to a rubbish dump in Sri Racha, Chon Buri, where she and her mother beg for money and sell recycled goods to make ends meet.

As large crowds of sympathisers and officials gathered in the Wat Khao Taeng On community where she was found, and Tai revelled in the attention to declare she would like to make a comeback, Tangmo recalled she had known Tai from their early days in the industry. While Tango's fortunes took off, Tai won roles in a couple of movies and then faded from view.

Her mother, Ausa Jankad, 52, said Tai's life took a turn for the worse when her boyfriend, a well-known singer, was killed in an accident. In grief, Tai, who has two children, aged 8 and 6, returned to Chon Buri where a friend introduced her to drugs. She turned to life as a vagrant, and fell into trouble with the law for theft.

In media clips Tai speaks cogently but fidgets constantly, a disorder which reporters attributed to nerves. She claimed she was "mad" and needed help. After putting up initial resistance, she agreed to be admitted to Queen Savang Vadhana Memorial Hospital in Sri Racha.

Meanwhile, Tangmo, who has met Tai since the saga came to light, urged society not to judge.

"I don't want her back in the industry, as she does not look ready, even if she were to get treatment. People might judge her as crazy and she would find it hard to return. Being in the industry these days is also scary, and hard. I am not sure of her mental state and how susceptible she is," she added.

Lawyer's magic spell

A well-known lawyer involved in a spat with a social activist has agreed to support a man who has emerged as collateral in their dispute.

Sittra Biebangkerd

Celebrity lawyer Sittra Biebang- kerd said he would go into battle on behalf of netizen and dog raiser Seth Dejsupa, whom a social activist is suing on four counts of defamation.

Activist Atchariya Ruangrattanapong has declared he is suing Mr Sittra and Mr Seth, the Ayutthaya police chief and TV presenter Kanchai "Noom'' Kamnerdploi in relation to a dispute involving police tampering with a citizen's private records in Ayutthaya.

Mr Decha accused a senior policeman of digging up private records belonging to his wife, Rukchanok Jroenmaksuwan, at the request of Mr Atchariya, who believed incorrectly that Mr Decha was head of a website, Red Skull, which was criticising him.

The activist allegedly shared the information on the internet, smearing his name. Mr Decha and his lawyer laid complaints about the matter with Bang Pa-in police in Ayutthaya and the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.

The policeman involved, deputy head of investigations with Bang Pa-in police, Pol Lt Col Ruangyot Kaysornbua, who has since been transferred, laid three charges against Mr Seth in response, accusing him of threatening behaviour. He has now been joined by Mr Atchariya, who has lodged court papers in Ayutthaya, Samut Prakan, and Nonthaburi.

Mr Sittra is fighting a broader battle with the activist after he accused him of seeking a bribe from a couple involved in a fraud case in Samut Sakhon. He said he would stick by Mr Decha, who was an innocent family man with nowhere else to turn.

He had spoken to Mr Decha, who sounded desperate and close to tears. "So to summarise, I am being sued in seven cases. If you won't help me where will I find the money to hire a lawyer? I would have to yield. How many people has he done this to now? And how many people have to yield because they can't find the means to fight?" Mr Decha asked.

Mr Sittra said the first hearing is tomorrow in Ayutthaya, when he would get the chance to cite a newly amended law to help Mr Decha. "If we win, we will take action against the other side for filing a false complaint, suing falsely, and giving false evidence," he declared.

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