6 June 2024

Surabot Leekpai, the celebrity son of a man dubbed the “Mr Clean” of Thai politics, has been accused of swindling crypto investors out of millions.

Investors in the Crypto Ronin NFT Project have filed a joint complaint with police against Surabot, claiming damages totaling 15 million baht.

Surabot has declined to comment when quizzed about the allegations, saying only that his lawyer is handling the issue.

What happened?

Widely known as “Pleum”, Surabot launched the “play-to-earn” crypto project last year.

His credibility earned through family connections attracted many to invest even before the project was fully developed.

When the game failed to launch as scheduled in the second quarter of 2022, investors agreed to wait a bit longer. Suspicions were only aroused after the project owner deleted their account on the Line messaging platform and migrated to Discord.

The final straw came in recent months when Bitkub officially removed Crypto Ronin NFT from its list of registered projects and Surabot stopped responding to their queries.

Son of ‘Mr Clean’

Born in 1987, Surabot is the only child of Chuan Leekpai, a political veteran whose five decades as a Democrat MP have included stints as prime minister and, more recently, Parliament president. Chuan has built a strong reputation for integrity and high ethical standards during his long political career, and has never faced corruption charges. In contrast to the elitist lifestyles of many Thai political giants, Chuan lives a simple life and has accumulated only modest wealth. In 2019, he declared total assets of 6.1 million baht, with no debts.

Chuan recognizes Surabot as his son but has no spouse, according to official papers. Surabot’s mother is Pakdiporn Sucharitkul.

Personal life & showbiz

Surabot began his education in kindergarten at Chitralada School before studying at Prasarnmit Demonstration School and Praowitthayakom School, where he served as student president and founded a music band. He then entered Ramkhamhaeng University where he graduated from the Political Science Faculty.

During his free time, Surabot likes to take care of his pet snakes and turtles. He also enjoys water sports including jet skiing.

Surabot built a reputation as a celebrity during his time hosting a show on the YouTube channel VRZO, which was popular among teenagers across the country.

In 2015, he married his co-host Mallika Chongwatana at a luxury hotel. The couple received blessing water for their union from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. But four years later, they broke up amid rumors of infidelity in the marriage.

Political role

Surabot likes to make public comments about politics, with his sharp remarks reminding many of his father’s rhetoric. And whenever his dad hits the campaign trail, he often jumps on the bandwagon.

In 2010, Surabot landed a job in politics, appointed as spokesman for the Culture Ministry.

Nine years later he stood as the 33rd candidate on the Democrats’ party-list at the 2019 general election. The party failed to attract enough votes to hand Surabot an MP seat, but he finally made it into Parliament for a brief time this year after replacing one of two Democrat MPs who resigned.

Surabot then worked under his father in the Parliament president’s team.

Forays into business 

Surabot has made several forays into the business world, gracing the boards of Xick Production Co Ltd and Loppai Co Ltd. Both companies have since gone out of business.

As of 2022, he was also the biggest shareholder in VRZO – the company that promoted the Crypto Ronin NFT Project. His name was still on the list of its board members as late as January this year.

However, Surabot’s name has now disappeared from the list. His mother is currently director of the company, which reported profits of over 900,000 baht in 2021.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk