"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, September 1, 2018

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 his holiday home at 1.30pm; or two, they chose not to know of it. Of the two, the latter comes closer. As such, his eclipse has not only gone on to be 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 disappearance was still fresh in the minds of many. 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 began to have an interest in Thompson's disappearance all over again. 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, was he really on the lookout for a hornet’s nest? Three, what were his intentions for heading for the Lutheran Mission bungalow? Four, while he was at the Lutheran home, what made him want to leave the place? Lastly, did he have an appointment to be picked up by someone with whom he had earlier made arrangements with?

After giving it serious thought, it dawned on me there was more to it than his being on the hunt for a hornet’s nest. When I returned from the retreat, I went through a stack of files to see if I could pinpoint the exact time he left "Moonlight" bungalow. I remembered being told he departed the cottage at 1.30pm. What later proved to be a disappointment to me was this: most reports, if not all, claimed he walked out of "Moonlight" 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 "Moonlight" at 1.30pm; equally interesting, it also mentioned Thompson waved goodbye to his friends before he left the premises. Armed with this detail, I wrote a book entitled SOLVED! The "Mysterious" Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Legendary Thai Silk KingIt was printed and published in the United Kingdom in 1996 and the United States in 2010. Of the many who read my work, none came around to say they were "short changed".

When Thompson left the Lutheran bungalow (background), he came into contact with the driver of a white car. The vehicle was parked at the side of the driveway (foreground). After a brief exchange of words, the driver drove off. 

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

Available at Select Books Pte Ltd
For my 2017 edition, I spent a day at the Kamunting precinct in August 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 he went missing. Throughout my walk, I hardly came into contact with anyone. It was much the same when I first travelled this road some years back.

If you are planning a trip to the Cameron Highlands, this is the one place you should not miss. Only after you have visited the Kamunting precinct would you be in a better position to understand 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 in Singapore at Select Books Pte Ltd.