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Homework in a Patong restaurant for back-on-Phuket boy Ricardo

Phuket Love-Tangle Boy Safe, Happy in Patong

Monday, November 29, 2010
TUG-OF-LOVE boy Ricardo Chain Pon Choosaneh, now aged eight, is back where he was born, on Phuket. Behind him, probably forever, is a short early life in Europe with his father.

Ahead lies a longer period growing up with his mother and her family, probably even as a key player in Patong's long-term future. Ricardo is being cared for by a doting uncle who, among several businesses, owns Soi Sansabai, the road that extends from Soi Bangla, as well as a large slice of the property around it.

Ricardo's mother Sumetra snatched her boy from the care of his father Michael in the Netherlands in May, catching a train with him to Paris. There she told authorities at the Thai embassy that she had lost her passport.

The embassy supplied a temporary travel document that enabled her to fly with Ricardo back to Bangkok, then on to Phuket. The snatch-and-run left the boy's father and stepmother Kimberley back in Delft, feeling betrayed.

The feeling was mutual. Khun Sumetra says she had not been allowed to visit or even talk to her son for five years, which prompted her to plan for a year the response that gave her back her son.

Although both parents clearly have the boy's best interests at heart, possession is the key. Ricardo is now likely to remain on Phuket for the foreseeable future.

We met Ricardo recently as his uncle picked him up from school and took him to a golf driving range, where the youngster has lessons three times each week. Among other activities, he is also learning English and Chinese.

After golf the boy was squired home to a mansion in Patong, homework at a table in one of the family's restaurants, and a session kicking a football and riding a bicycle and a skateboard in Soi Sansabai.

As the product of an Thai-Dutch relationship gone wrong, Ricardo has captured international media attention. A Dutch journalist and photographer had flown in to investigate.

Ricardo's uncle, clearly delighted to spend time with Ricardo, allowed them to ask the boy questions in Dutch, the only language he knew when his mother spirited him away.

To the Dutch news team and to us, the boy seemed to want for nothing and to be at ease, happy and extremely content in his uncle's company.

Back in June, Ricardo's stepmother Kimberley told Phuketwan that she was distraught over the secret snatching of the boy she had come to love.

''It's heart-breaking,'' she said by telephone from her home in Delft. ''I have been looking after Ricardo since he was nine months old, as though he was my own son. Now he has been taken away. We desperately want him back.''

While Kimberley says that Ricardo's mother was remote and did not show interest in Ricardo, Khun Sumetra tells a different story.

From Bangkok, where she was doing a cooking course, Khun Sumetra spoke to Phuketwan publicly for the first time of her own heartache. At times, she sobbed over the telephone.

''I sent money every month to Ricardo while I was working in France as an animal carer,'' Khun Sumetra said. ''There was a five-year gap when I had no chance to see or talk to my son.

''I knew he was growing up. I asked Mike and Kimberley to remind Ricardo that he still had a real mother, living in France. I tried often to get in touch, and asked often to speak to Ricardo, but there was always some excuse made as to why he couldn't come to the phone.

''After five years without contact with my son, not a telephone call or a letter or an email, I decided to plan what to do. I consulted a lawyer a year before taking action.

''He told me it would be difficult to win a case in the Netherlands because my boy did not know anything about me, and had no contact with me and only spoke Dutch, not Thai.

''I went there, knowing that they would welcome me because they were always happy to take my money every month.

''I asked to meet my boy because I told them I was hurt, and I was moving from France to another country, a long way away. I told Mike I had some money for Ricardo, and he immediately said, 'You are welcome in our house.'''

She went to visit in Delft and talked in Dutch with her son for several days, whenever Mike and Kim were out. She was horrified to learn that her son had been told nothing about her, that his real mother had been wiped entirely from his life.

''I asked 'Did Kimberley and Mike show you my photo or not, did they tell you I called from France?' Ricardo said, 'No.' So I decided to take him on the train back to France. Mike was holding my passport, as a precaution.

''I went to the Thai embassy. I had plenty of documentation, and I told them I had lost my passport, which was true in a way. They gave me and Ricardo a temporary permit to travel, and we flew from France to Bangkok.''

She said she felt sorry for Kimberley, who missed the boy and wanted him to return. ''But I do not feel sorry for Mike,'' she said. ''I have been trying to contact my son since the early days, and taking the boy in the end was the only way.''

She sobbed when talking about the pain of not being able to see her son or even talk to him for five years.

''The boy was born in Thailand,'' she said. ''I gave birth to him at Mission Hospital on Phuket. It always seemed unfair to me that I would be denied contact, and only allowed to see him if there was money involved.''

She and Mike had been happy on Phuket for a year, but Ricardo's uncle says that Mike preferred a relaxed life driving the family's expensive cars and playing golf each day rather than contributing to the running of the family businesses.

Kimberley, the family says, was a former girlfriend to whom Mike eventually returned.

Now Ricardo's mother worries about whether what she has done will prevent her from being allowed back to Europe to see her other young son and daughter, who live in France with another former boyfriend. Those two children have been to visit her on Phuket ''often.''

''I was always free to see them in France whenever I liked, and I talk to them frequently,'' she told Phuketwan. ''There has never been any problem with me having access to them.

''But as a mother, I do need to see my children, all of them. Ricardo's father is a selfish man.''

Officials at Immigration in Phuket City say that despite the number of romances between expats and Thais on Phuket, cases such as the one involving Ricardo are rare.
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One more time you make San Sabai even more interesting than it actually is - and that's interesting!

Posted by ssresident on November 29, 2010 17:24


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