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Politician-turned-vintner prepares to toast Thaksin

May 16, 2001

Within the next two months, the label of Chateau de Chalawan will begin to bear the portrait of political maverick Sanan Khachornprasart. Not only is it certain to become a personal trademark as Sanan's wine goes international, but it will also embody the House of Chalawan, to which Sanan faithfully traces his family roots.

Chai Rajawat, the famous Thai Rath cartoonist, produced three sketches for Sanan, who will choose one for the label. One is a clear pencil drawing of Sanan's face. Another is a more vague sketch of the man. The last is a black silhouette, unmistakably Sanan - a small head with two big ears. Sanan hasn't said which drawing he will use. But whichever it is, it will appear on the label of every bottle of Chateau de Chalawan within the next two months - in time to celebrate the Constitution Court's ruling on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's indictment on charges of concealing assets.

For every wine, the name is as important as the taste. Sanan's decision to go for "Chateau de Chalawan" reflects his close roots to the northern province of Phichit, which is his political stronghold. Phichit was the ancient land of the notorious and fierce Chalawan, a mythical crocodile in the classic Thai literary work Kraithong.

Chalawan had an appetite for human flesh - particularly beautiful women. Using magical powers, the crocodile could transform itself into a handsome man. Residing in an underwater cave, one day Chalawan took two girls who had gone swimming in the river as his wives. However, Kraithong appeared on the scene and, with his stronger magic, overpowered Chalawan and subsequently killed him. Kraithong ends up with the two new wives, Chalawan's original wife and his own wife.

Interestingly, Sanan did not name his wine "Chateau de Kraithong", after the handsome hero who subdues and kills Chalawan. King Lertla, or King Rama II, composed the verse play Kraithong, which has become very popular among Thai readers.

Psychologically speaking, Sanan never wanted to be a hero in real life; he prefers being a nak leng (not a bad guy altogether - a sort of godfather). Otherwise, he says, he would have picked Kraithong as the name for his wine. This attitude reflects his real political life, where his image is that of a deal-maker, a "mini-godfather" of Thai politics.

Sanan has been forced out of politics due to allegations that he cooked up his assets. He is now waiting with a good heart to see whether the prime minister would suffer the same fate. Whatever the outcome of the Constitution Court's ruling, Sanan will be ready to raise a glass of Chateau de Chalawan in a toast to Thaksin with a glad heart.

Be his guest at the Cave of Chalawan.

Thanong Khanthong






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