The Asserted Sequence of Events
Last month in this column we learned that ex-CIA officer Barry Broman asserted in 2017 in a documentary film at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, that he had solved the fascinating case of the disappearance of Jim Thompson, the “Silk King of Thailand,” who vanished in the high jungles of central Malaysia in 1967. Barry and his informant associates, Teo Pin and Willis Bird, Jr., stated in the film and Q&A that the sequence of events went like this:
First, the ex-Prime Minister of Thailand, Pridi Banomyong, who had been forced out of Thailand in a coup and was living in exile in China in 1967, issued an invitation to ex-OSS officer Willis Bird, Sr., living in Thailand, to have a meeting in China. Bird declined, but Jim Thompson was then invited and agreed to meet. (It is well documented that Pridi and Jim were great friends and mutual supporters.) Willis Bird’s son, Willis Bird, Jr., was a teenager at the time, is still living, and asserts that he knew of the invitation and the reaction of his father and Jim. Bird, Jr. feels that Pridi just wanted to explain his actions to his old friends, and that was the reason for the meeting. Bird, Jr. states that Jim’s trip to Malaysia was to set up the meeting in China, and was not to actually meet Pridi at that time.
Second, according to Broman, Jim left Bangkok and went to the Moonlight Bungalow in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, almost 800 miles to the south. He apparently had an appointment with someone in the area, perhaps with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), an outlawed terrorist organization, to arrange the future meeting with Pridi. (Jim said at the time that he was going to the Bungalow with friends on vacation for a long weekend, and was then going on to business meetings and social engagements in Singapore.)
Third, when Jim reached the Cameron Highlands he began putting out “feelers” to the CPM. The CPM was fragmented into various factions, had little contact with China, and made many decisions locally. Jim kept asking to meet with the most wanted terrorist in the country, Chin Peng, the Secretary-General (head) of the CPM. Jim didn’t give a reason for meeting this man, who had a huge reward on his head (and who was actually hiding in China at the time).
Fourth, the local Communists, reacting to Jim’s “feelers,” began to “keep Jim under observation for a week or two at the Moonlight Bungalow,” found him rather suspicious, and “checked up on him.” They found that Jim was or had been associated with US and British intelligence, and hence they viewed him as very suspicious indeed.
Fifth, local officials in the CPM, including a man named Teo Pok Hwa, had Jim killed in the Cameron Highlands because of his suspicious actions. These officials did not check first with CPM chief Chin Peng, because “Chin shouldn’t be bothered with such trivial matters.” Jim’s body was disposed of, but it is unknown exactly where it is now (although it is likely in the Highlands), or who did the actual execution. (Note that Willis Byrd, Jr. asserts that Jim was kidnapped by the CPM, and was not killed locally, but rather was taken by boat 500 miles across the Gulf of Siam to Cambodia, and possibly on to China. Hence he was apparently killed or died and was buried in one of those two countries.)
Sixth, twenty-two years later, in 1989, Teo Pok Hwa told his nephew, Teo Pin, about his suspicions of Jim, and said that he and the CPM “had Jim eliminated.” The nephew was impressed by this very strong language, but did not get details on the location of the body, the method of killing, or the executioner. Teo Pin relayed this story in about 2016 to a Thai friend and onward to filmmaker Barry Broman, and this story inspired the film.
I applaud Teo Pin, Willis Bird, Jr. and Barry Broman for coming forward with new information. Their version of events is supported by the Malaysian Police theory (that I uncovered for the first time, and described in my report) that Jim’s scent trail was broken as he walked away from the Moonlight Bungalow, because he got into a car or truck, and didn’t just go for a short hike.
But there are numerous issues with the sequence of asserted events as presented above. Next month I will identify and discuss fifteen such problems!
Photos courtesy Lew Toulmin
To see Broman’s 45-minute film and 67-minute Q&A at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cic9Wh-MSw
To read my report and earlier stories on the case, see Academia.edu (with a paywall) or my free website at: http://www.themosttraveled.com/The%20Disappearance%20of%20Jim%20Thompson%20FINAL%20redacted.pdf