King's second son obtains Thai ID
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King's second son obtains Thai ID

After living in the US for almost 30 years, Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse, now on his third trip to Thailand, shares why he's back

Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse, the second-eldest son of His Majesty the King, at the Bangkok Post building. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse, the second-eldest son of His Majesty the King, at the Bangkok Post building. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse, the second-eldest son of His Majesty the King, says he is delighted he can now call himself a Thai citizen as he recently obtained his first-ever ID card after living abroad for almost 30 years.

On his latest trip to Thailand on March 6, he arrived in the country as a Thai citizen holding a Thai passport.

On his previous visit in December, Mr Vacharaesorn, 42, fondly known to Thais as "Than Aon", applied for an ID card at a local registration office in Nonthaburi before proceeding to apply for a passport and open a bank account. He made his first return visit to the country in August.

"I am very happy that I now have an ID card and have officially become a Thai citizen. I felt like something was missing during the last 20 years," said Mr Vacharaesorn in an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post.

"I am recognised as Mr Vacharaesorn on my ID card. I am proud of myself. I have made a life for myself through my own efforts, my patience and my own learning. This way, I gained more experience and strength," he said.

Asked how he felt when he arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport on his first return, he said jokingly: "I felt like prostrating myself on the ground to pay respects to my homeland. But I thought better of it, as that would have been too much.

"But at the time, I had many feelings and emotions. I left the country a long time ago, and I have since gained a lot of experience. A close bond [with the country] remains. I want to see changes -- and travel around and see the country that remains in my memory," he said.

Why the visit?

Asked if he had any particular purpose for his return to Thailand, Mr Vacharaesorn said: "I only wanted to return to my homeland. This is the feeling of a person who left over 27 years ago.

Mr Vacharaesorn is greeted by editorial staff of the 'Bangkok Post'. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

"I came here privately. No one told me to come. I am not representing anyone. I don't want to compete for anything … I have no resources, no power. I don't have aspirations beyond providing value in my own capacity," he said.

He went on to say that he intends to move from the US, where he is currently living, to Thailand and get permanent residency here -- though several factors, including his career, must be taken into account.

Mr Vacharaesorn said he worked as a lawyer in New York State and Florida for 15-16 years. Currently, he works as a legal adviser, particularly on energy issues.

"I am also thinking of opening a firm that offers advice to foreign investors and international businesses seeking to invest in Thailand," he said.

"It's just a thought. Whether it can or will materialise is a matter for the future," he said.

Helping others

He is also keen to work in the civil sector to help people with legal issues.

"But I will also have to take into account whether the people who will work with me will be comfortable with me. Moreover, the laws in the US are different from those in Thailand," he said.

"Everyone should help family members, the people around us, and contribute to society. I cannot say that I will be able to make big contributions or change society. But at the very least, I can do good things for myself, for my neighbours and for my family. We must not act beyond our limitations. Helping only one person means you are already a helpful person," he said.

He added that he hopes Thais will gain better access to equality under the law, social and economic equality, as well as freedom and human rights.

"I believe in human dignity and aim to treat each person I encounter with respect and understanding. In a divided world, I am open to hearing and understanding even opinions that are opposed to mine," he said.

"I also visited the Lawyers Council of Thailand. I really admired the volunteer lawyers who are helping people with their legal issues.

"Many people who were in trouble queued up for legal advice there. Among them was a visually-impaired and helpless grandmother. She was in tears, and I offered to comfort her.

"So, I thought I should do what I could to help raise funds to support the work of volunteer lawyers there," he said.

Quizzed if he is keen to pursue a career in politics, he said: "Absolutely not. Politics is scary. I have to be careful. I won't meet any politicians because I don't want to be seen as taking sides or as somebody's tool."

Touring Thailand

On his first trip in August, he stayed in Thailand for 10 days; on his second trip in December, he stayed about 14 days.

On this current visit, he plans to stay until after Songkran.

"I have to plan each visit in advance. I have my job in the US to take care of, so I cannot stay in Thailand for a long time," he said.

During the latest trip, he said he visited Siam Paragon and several other places, such as the Nonthaburi canal and other provinces like Khon Kaen, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Sawan, as well as Chiang Mai.

"I also had the opportunity to pay respects to Phra That Phanom pagoda in Nakhon Phanom and I took part in a chanting session there. I was impressed," he said.

He also said his favourite Thai dishes include khana moo krob (Chinese broccoli stir-fried with crispy pork belly) and pak bung fai daeng (stir-fried morning glory), adding that he also had a chance to sample street food in Chinatown on Yaowarat Road.

During visits to the provinces in the Northeast, such as Khon Kaen, he also sampled dishes made using ant eggs.

"It was very tasty… and expensive, costing up to 1,000 baht per kilogramme," he said.

"During my three trips here, I still haven't had the chance to visit any seaside provinces. I plan to go to the South, maybe Phangnga, Krabi and Phuket, which all are known to have beautiful beaches," he said.

He added that he also wanted to buy a pair of Muay Thai shorts as he once practised Thai boxing.

Asian in America

Mr Vacharaesorn also recounted his experiences as an Asian man living in the US, where people do not know who he is.

"I had to be patient and soldier on. That's a life experience and it makes me understand others better," he said.

He also recalled his first job selling hot dogs at a race track after arriving in the US. He also sold premium vacuum cleaners door-to-door. The vacuum cleaners cost US$3,000 (108,000 baht) each and he received a commission of $500 for each sale, he said. "I sold three of them and received $1,500 in commission.

"I have made a life for myself in my 27 years in the United States. Although my private life is still subject to scrutiny and speculation, it is a private matter with no relevance to any of my activities in Thailand.

"As a private citizen, I am entitled to a modicum of peace and privacy in my personal life," he said.

HM the King's 2nd son is back, and tells us why

Arriving at the 'Bangkok Post' building in the afternoon, Vacharaesorn "Than Aon" Vivacharawongse, the second eldest son of His Majesty the King, pulled up in a sleek black van accompanied by 2-3 private cars. With a small number of close friends and acquaintances by his side, he stepped out of the vehicle, with his smile lighting up the scene, and made his way into the Bangkok Post.

It marked a significant moment for everyone present as the Bangkok Post was the first media outlet he had visited in three trips back to Thailand. Once inside, he sought not only to engage in casual conversation but also to take a glimpse at the editorial department's workings.

After 27 years away from Thailand, this is the first time he has returned under a Thai passport. He said is also very happy and proud that he now has a Thai identification card. Than Aon explained that he is highly intrigued by the country's sweeping transformation and wishes to return to live here, but that depends on various factors, especially his career aspirations. As a lawyer and legal consultant in the United States, he has always envisioned himself playing a key role in assisting foreign investors drawn to Thailand and the region.

His return after a nearly three-decade absence from Thailand might inevitably raise some suspicions about his motives, but he confirmed his intention was simply to see his homeland once more, witness the country's changes and travel throughout the kingdom with no particular agenda.

Thailand's cuisine, cultural heritage, and eco-tourism sector are among Than Aon's interests and passions when he stays in the Kingdom. He also plans to visit the beaches in the southern region, as he has not had the time to enjoy any of the nation's famous seaside resorts on previous returns.

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