"De Souza's theory was that Thompson had planned his own disappearance as 'an honourable manner' to get out of Thailand."

The Star, March 31, 2010.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Solved! The disappearance of 

Jim Thompson in the

Cameron Highlands

To date, volumes have been written about Jim Thompson, by far, the best known legend of Southeast Asia. Of the many who wrote about him, none have come close to solving his disappearance from the Cameron Highlands. Why is that so? There are two reasons for this: one, it could be the authors were not aware that Thompson left the Ling’s estate at 1.30pm; or two, they chose not to know of it. Of the two, the latter seems to be the case. As such, his eclipse has not only gone on to become an unsolved mystery; it has also led many to go on a tangent.

I first came to have an interest in Thompson's disappearance as a result of reading about it in the newspapers. My initial impression was that he got lost as a consequence of falling into a pit of quicksand. Years later, I came to realise this was not the case. 

In 1994, while on a trip to the retreat, it came as a surprise to me that in spite of the fact he vanished more than 25 years ago, the memory of his departure was still fresh in the minds of many. What also caught my attention was this: some of the residents I spoke to were sure he had a hidden motive for coming over to their neighbourhood. But, due to a lack of evidence, they had to put away their views.

While I was at the hill station, I came to have an interest in his absconding all over again. To satisfy my curiosity, I took the route which he took just after he left "Moonlight" bungalow. While walking down Kamunting Road (Malay: Jalan Kamunting), several questions crossed my mind: One, why did he have to choose this route when there were so many other avenues opened to him? Two, what were his intentions for heading for the Lutheran Mission bungalow? Three, while he was at the complex, what made him want to leave the place? Lastly, did he have an appointment to be picked up by someone?

When I got back from the resort, I went through a stack of files to see if I could pinpoint the exact time he left the cottage. I remembered being told he departed the bungalow at about 1.30pm. What later proved to be a disappointment to me was this: most reports, if not all, claimed he walked out of "Moonlight" bungalow at 3.30pm. Much later, while going through the past issues of the Eastern Sun, I came across an article which not only stated he left the premises at 1.30pm; equally interesting, it also affirmed that Thompson waved goodbye to two of his friends prior to his leaving the estate. Armed with this detail, I went ahead to write a book entitled SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk King. Of the many who read my work, none came around to say they were “short changed.”

I have to admit it was no easy task solving Thompson’s exit from the Cameron Highlands. Over the years, a lot has been written about him. But what has been written about him did not bring his departure to a satisfying close. At best, it was an unsolved mystery; at worse, it was a rehash of what others had had to say.

Book available at Select Books Pte Ltd 

For my 2017 edition, I spent a whole day at the Kamunting precinct in late 2016. I enjoyed my stroll from "Moonlight" to the Lutheran abode: it not only gave me a nice “feel” of the route which Thompson took; it also made me more aware as to why he opted for this path. Except for the presence of a government-owned building (Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Perkerja), nothing much has changed in the area since the time he was reported as lost. Throughout my walk, I hardly came into contact with anyone. It was much the same when I first travelled this road some years back.

The driveway leading to the Lutheran Mission bungalow
If you are planning a trip to the retreat, this is the one place you should not miss. Only after you have visited this precinct would you be in a better position to decide why Thompson was on this street for more than two hours and on it again for a questionable period of time. 

Excerpt from Prologue, pages xiii-xv, Jim Thompson -- METAMORPHOSIS, Solved! The disappearance of Jim Thompson in the Cameron Highlands.  ISBN: 978-981-11-2584-3. Published: January 2017, Copyright ⓒ 2017 Edward Roy De Souza. Book available at Select Books Pte Ltd (Singapore)