INVESTIGATION into the alleged disappearance of more than 100 paintings by the renowned late national artist Thawan Duchanee is continuing, but what has come to light is the family feud between Thawan’s son and his 70-year-old stepmother.
The son, Doytibet Duchanee, claims 113 paintings disappeared from the Bangkok house where his stepmother Thippachat “Ord” Wannakul, Thawan’s common-law wife of more than 30 years, is living.
Doytibet said the paintings went missing after Thawan died on September 3, 2014, and dismissed speculation that they had been sold or given away before his father died.
In June last year, Doytibet lodged a police complaint saying three of Thawan’s paintings worth about Bt6 million had disappeared from the house.
He did not make any clear accusations, but indirectly pointed the finger at his stepmother, who lived in the house where the paintings were kept. Thippachat, meanwhile, defended herself on Tuesday, releasing a five-page document denying she was behind the disappearance of her late husband’s paintings.
Calling herself Auntie Ord, she wrote she had lived with Thawan for more than 30 years and that the Supreme Court ruling on his estate had acknowledged her rights as a common-law wife.
She said she had sought ownership of Thawan’s assets – two Bangkok houses – plus 40 per cent of Thawan’s paintings and the same share of his money in the bank. She also added that she had taken care of Doytibet since he was a little boy.
Doytibet and his lawyer, Achariya Ruengrattanapong, met with city police chief Pol Lt-General Charnthep Sesawet, seeking an update on his complaint about the missing paintings. After the meeting, the lawyer denied there was any truth to the 60-40 per cent split, but refused to elaborate.
“What we are focusing now is not about an inheritance case,” Achariya said. “It is about criminal offences, paintings which are considered a national treasure mysteriously disappearing. The claim about the share settled in the court in 2017 was not correct.”
The court did not even certify Thippachat as the wife, he said, adding that his client already knew who had taken the 113 paintings out of the house and who has them.
Doytibet revealed that his stepmother had filed a motion with court to be executor of Thawan’s assets nine days after he died.
“I learned about the motion two months later, so I filed one opposing her. The three courts ruled I was to be the only executor,” he said.
Referring to the missing paintings, the son said – tongue in cheek – that most of them were about birds so they must have flown out of the windows. He said his father had kept thousands of paintings in the house and he knew some were missing because he had catalogued them all.
According to Doytibet, many people sent his father’s paintings to him to confirm their authenticity.
Sometimes he claimed people sent his father originals and it was while he was checking up on these that he discovered some were missing.
“Negotiations on sharing the inheritance has not been settled yet. However after finding about the missing paintings, I will no longer enter into any negotiation on the matter. Let’s take the case to Civil Court,” Doytibet said.
“I have a clue about who has about 10 missing paintings. Those who legally own the paintings should not worry as I have certification for them.”