2022 review: How the mystery of Tangmo’s death gripped Thailand 

Actress Pattaratida “Tangmo” Patcharawirapong was famous during her lifetime, but even more so after her controversial death in early 2022. “Tangmo” is the second-most popular Google search word in Thailand this year.

The 38-year-old disappeared from a private boat that was cruising the Chao Phraya River on the night of February 24.

Her body was discovered two days later after five companions on the trip said she fell off the back of the boat while answering the call of nature. However, public suspicion was soon aroused by discrepancies in their stories.

True or false?

On the speedboat that night were Tangmo’s manager Idsarin “Gatick” Juthasuksawat, a good-looking woman widely seen as her best friend-turned-betrayer; Idsarin’s former love interest Tanupat “Por” Lerttaweewit; Phaiboon “Robert” Trikanjananun; Wisapat “Sand” Manomairat; and Nitas “Job” Kiratisoothisathorn.

Tanupat, Phaiboon and Nitas are all business owners, while Wisapat – a transgender woman – hails from a rich family.

After Tangmo disappeared, members of the party headed home while Tangmo’s brother and boyfriend joined rescue workers in a frantic all-night search for the missing actress.

Later that night, a few members of the cruise party met an advisor at a petrol station – something they only admitted after they were presented with CCTV recordings from the meeting’s location.

Other members of the cruise party spoke to media hoping to clear doubts. This move backfired spectacularly, raising more questions and rumors that Tangmo had been the victim of foul play.

Police called a large press conference on the case, but it only muddied the waters further. For instance, police used a photograph unrelated to the case to illustrate their theory that 26 gashes found on Tangmo’s legs had been caused by the boat’s propeller.

Investigators later issued an apology over the controversy, but they have yet to provide details on the wounds.

Meanwhile, Tanupat and Phaiboon quickly ordained as priests, devoting their act of sacrifice to Tangmo’s memory. However, skeptics said the duo only wanted to shave their heads of hair that could be used to check for substance abuse.

On August 3, Tangmo’s boat-trip companions and their advisor were charged with crimes including recklessness causing death and making false statements. The charges stemmed from a police complaint made by Tangmo’s mother, Panida Sirayootyotin.

The speedboat party then allegedly tried to mollify Panida by offering to take care of her financially. Since then, Panida has been apparently happy to let the case proceed without digging too deeply into its controversies, despite protests from her son.

In late September, Panida received 400,000 baht in cash and a cheque for 1.6 million baht from the five defendants and their adviser, as well as a pair of pearl earrings from Wisapat.

They also arranged for her to be paid 30,000 baht per month for the next 20 years or until she dies.

Justice for Tangmo

While an autopsy concluded Tangmo died of drowning, and her mother appears willing to let the case go, several prominent figures are unhappy with the investigation.

Dr Tavatchai Kanchanarin, a former surgeon at Phramongkutklao Hospital, has asked why Tangmo’s stomach and lungs were filled with mud – something that is very unusual in drowning cases.

He also does not believe that the wounds on her legs were caused by the propellor. He said the results of his own experiments indicated that the big cut on Tangmo’s right leg may have been inflicted by a knife.

Meanwhile, a complaint of criminal corruption against 48 police officers involved in Tangmo’s case has been filed by Atchariya Ruangrattanapong, who heads a Help Crime Victims club.

The accused include commissioned police officers up to the rank of general.

In loving memory

Tangmo’s tragic death triggered an outpouring of grief from her friends, including celebrities. Prominent talent scout Suppachai Srivijit and star actress Patcharapa Chaichua came forward to cover Tangmo’s funeral expenses.

With support from the Church of Joy and Tangmo’s family, the funeral ceremony was held over three days from March 11 to 13 and streamed live on social media platforms.

Meanwhile, for the past 10 months, Tangmo’s bereaved boyfriend has continued to post photographs of his lost love on Instagram.

By Thai PBS World

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