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'Suspicious circumstances' surround death of Pawana Chanajit, the 'Pearl of Asia'

Sep 10. 2012
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By THE NATION

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In her roles in many classic movies, former actress Pawana Chanajit often played a girl in love with much older men. But the 'Pearl of Asia' was living with a younger man until her body was found yesterday in a pond at her Nakhon Pathom home.

The 69-year-old actress was found by her boyfriend after she briefly went missing, police said.

Relatives believe she died in suspicious circumstances and cited Pawana’s massive wealth and relationship troubles in recent months.

The boyfriend, Natthaphong Luangsirikul, 55, told police Pawana disappeared from her home, located on a 16-rai plot, at about 9pm on Sunday. He and two servants looked for her till he found a slipper floating in a 2-metre-deep pond around 3am yesterday.

Pawana’s brother-in-law Phanyos Ratchadaphornwanich told police he came to the house to help find Pawana, and heard a gunshot, before seeing Natthaphong carry a pistol, and walk closely to Phanyos’ wife Hatthaya, who is Pawana’s sister.

“Natthaphong wanted to know where two briefcases belonging to Pawana were being kept by her adopted son, Aphicha. I think they contain some documents Natthaphong wanted,” Phanyos told police.

Pawana, whose legal Thai name was Aranyaphorn Laosaengthong, had around Bt2 billion in assets, including Bt4 million through a land sale in Nakhon Ratchasima, Pol Lt-Colonel Chaiyos Mukdaharn, a senior officer at Nakhon Chasri police station, which has jurisdiction over the case, said.

Another senior investigator, Pol Lt-Colonel Sanit Chinjorhor, said police have not concluded the cause of her death as drowning. An initial forensic study found no wounds on her body. A crime scene investigation aimed to simulate her movement before she possibly plunged into the pond, judging from where a slipper was found at the scene.

An unnamed servant was quoted in news reports as saying that Natthaphong drew his pistol and chased people who came to the house to help find Pawana. The servant claimed to have seen Natthaphong “wai” Pawana’s body after he found her and shouted to everyone.

“He rushed to the pond and gave a wai to her body. For what reasons I don’t know,” the servant said.

At the height of her acting career in the 1960s and ’70s, Pawana was known as the “Pearl of Asia” for her many roles in Hong Kong action movies, including “Duel of Fists” (1971), the Shaw Brothers’ Bangkok thriller starring David Chiang and Ti Lung and directed by Chang Cheh.

Fluent in Cantonese, Pawana, whose Cantonese name is Lau Lan Ying, was the head of a hierarchy of heroines during her time making films in Hong Kong.

She made her film debut in 1960 with “Saeng Soon”, featuring Mitr Chaibancha and Amara Assavanonda, for which she won a Tukata Thong (Golden Doll) award for best supporting actress.

 

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