New film claims to have solved Jim Thompson mystery

American businessman Jim Thompson views a Buddha statue in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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New film claims to have solved Jim Thompson mystery

BANGKOK: A new documentary is set to stir fresh debate over one of Asia’s most enduring mysteries: What happened to Jim Thompson, Thailand’s legendary silk king.
The former American intelligence officer turned textile tycoon went for a walk in the Malaysian jungle 50 years ago and never returned. Despite a massive search, no trace of Thompson was ever found. One of the most prominent Westerners in Asia had simply vanished.
Theories abound: He was killed by a tiger; he got lost and perished in deep forest; he disappeared himself as part of a political intrigue. Those behind the documentary say they have new evidence that Thompson was killed.
Their film, “Who Killed Jim Thompson,” premiered Oct. 20 at the Eugene International Film Festival in the US state of Oregon.
“There is been all sorts of theories and mostly silly theories, but I am hoping that this will put some closure to, you know, the whole story,” said Barry Broman, the film’s producer.
The filmmakers, from Adventure Film Productions, said they got their break out of the blue: An old contact approached them with a tale of a death-bed confession. They eventually found a second source whose information dove-tailed with the first.
Their conclusion: Thompson was slain by rebels from the Communist Party of Malaya who grew suspicious after he arrived in the jungle and began requesting a meeting with the party’s secretary-general, at the time Malaysia’s most-wanted man. Rather than vacationing, the filmmakers said, Thompson was on what turned out to be a final, fatal mission.
Broman, who has decades of Asia experience as a photographer, US marine and diplomat, said the conclusion is unequivocal: “Jim was never going to be found. He was murdered.”
The filmmakers acknowledged the murder theory’s not new, but they believe their version is more substantial. While some of the film’s conclusions are plausible based on what is known about Thompson’s life, there is nothing definitive given that it relies on second-hand information from relatives of those allegedly involved and leaves many questions unanswered.
During World War II, Thompson was a highly decorated operative with the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. After the war, he was stationed in Thailand with the OSS and chose to make his home there after turning businessman and founding his silk firm in 1948.
Thompson helped revive the Thai silk industry and his company has since grown into one of Thailand’s flag-ship luxury brands. His former Bangkok home, once the site of legendary parties, is now a museum filled with his fabulous collection of Asian art and antiques. Both have become must-see attractions for the millions of tourists who visit Thailand each year.
The company declined to comment on the new claims about the fate of its founder.
Thompson had a $1.5 million a year business by 1967, when the Vietnam War was in full swing with Thailand playing an essential role, hosting bases from which the US Air Force bombed communist-controlled areas of Indochina.
Thompson decamped in March of that year to Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, a hill station dotted with tea plantations that was once popular with British colonists, for some rest and relaxation with Singaporean friends at their Tudor-style Moonlight Cottage vacation home.
On March 26, Easter Sunday, as his hosts were taking a rest, they heard their guest from Bangkok leave the house, presumably to take a stroll in the area’s crisp fresh air.
Not a trace of Thompson was found after that. Hundreds of people were involved in the initial sweep to find him: soldiers, police, professional jungle trackers, native tribespeople. When no clues were unearthed, psychics and medicine men joined the fruitless quest.
“I still have questions. I would like to have a couple of more sources,” Broman acknowledged. He hopes bringing the story to the screen may jog some memories, and perhaps someone, somewhere will be struck by a realization along the lines of, “say, did not Grandpa talk about that?”


Singer Lamjarred case reopens Morocco violence against women debate

Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred (C) is escorted by police officers at the courthouse in Aix-en-Provence on September 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Singer Lamjarred case reopens Morocco violence against women debate

  • Despite the string of allegations against him, the singer’s tunes have still been played on radio stations and Moroccan media have enthused over the release of his latest singles

RABAT: Still adored at home despite three separate rape charges in France, Moroccan pop star Saad Lamjarred’s latest arrest has reignited a debate on violence against women in the North African kingdom.
Following similar accusations in October 2016 and April 2017, Lamjarred was re-arrested last week in southern France on charges he had raped a woman in a Riviera hotel.
The superstar’s detention comes just days after Morocco was rocked by claims from a teenage girl, Khadija Okkarou, that she had been kidnapped and gang-raped by a group of men from her village.
Lamjarred’s detention has sparked a social media campaign seeking to ban his songs from Morocco’s airwaves using the hashtags #masaktach (“we will not be silenced“) and #LamjarredOut.
But the push has done little to dampen the popularity of the 33-year-old singer, whose hit “Lmaallem” has been viewed more than 660 million times on YouTube.
“The case of Saad Lamjarred is a symbol that brings together everything connected to rape culture and impunity,” said Laila Slassi, one of the campaign’s initiators.
Despite the string of allegations against him, the singer’s tunes have still been played on radio stations and Moroccan media have enthused over the release of his latest singles.
In August, he was prominently featured in a video of artists put out for the birthday of King Mohammed VI — who has helped cover the pop star’s legal fees.
Lamjarred’s fans remain convinced the singer, from a family of artists in the capital Rabat, is the target of a conspiracy and that his alleged victims seek to benefit from his fame.

“He’s famous, good looking, so we support him... it’s an emblematic case of sympathy for the aggressor in a society where we always find excuses for men,” psychologist Sanaa El Aji, a specialist in gender issues, told AFP.
Slassi said the media was “promoting a man accused of sexual violence” instead of role models.
Under pressure, Morocco’s Radio 2M has pulled Lamjarred from its airwaves, saying it “no longer promotes (the singer) since the case is in the hands of the judiciary.”
But Hit Radio, the kingdom’s most popular, was less clear about its stance.
The station’s head Younes Boumehdi initially said he would not broadcast the superstar’s hits, but quickly added the measure would only last until “things calm down.”
An on-air poll showed 68 percent of Hit Radio’s audience wanted to continue listening to the star, regardless of the charges.
Ultra-famous in the Arab world, Lamjarred “is still among the most popular on YouTube, and for many of his fans he will remain an icon, even if he is sentenced,” Boumehdi told AFP.
The case has sparked “a lot of emotion because Saad Lamjarred has the image of a modern man with a new message,” he said.
Radio Chada FM, which claims to be a leader in Morocco’s arts and music scenes, said it would not take Lamjarred off the air “until he has been tried, in the name of the presumption of innocence.”
But not everyone agrees.
“His song lyrics glorify male domination among couples... and the submission of the woman,” business leader Mehdi Alami wrote in a post shared widely on social media.

“It amounts to discrediting the word of women,” said rights activist Betty Lachgar.
Many like Lachgar have drawn comparisons between the #masaktach campaign and the global #metoo movement against sexual harassment.
But in Morocco, “most people don’t believe in this type of thinking, (for them), the harassers are the victims,” said El Aji.
Campaign organizer Slassi says the #masaktach movement gained momentum after the “Khadija affair.”
The 17-year-old was at the center of a storm last month after she accused a group of men from her village in central Morocco of having kidnapped, raped and tortured her over a two-month period.
Her 12 assailants have confessed to having imprisoned and raped her, and of threatening her with death, according to her lawyers.
“But for many, she remains the main culprit,” said Laila.