Sunday, November 19, 2006

Working his way to zero

Thai Takes

His heart literally about to explode like a bomb, Vikrom Kromadit grabbed two shotguns and embarked on a one-hour drive from Bangkok to his hometown Kanchanaburi to kill his father.

“It was like a war in my heart. My father had just shot my brother in the head and I wanted revenge,” said Vikrom, who is No. 29 on Forbes’ list of Thailand’s 40 richest, recalling his mad mood 18 years ago.

On that murderous night, the traffic out of Bangkok was at a crawl.

“During the slow drive, I was thinking that if I killed my father and then myself, what good would it bring? Who would take care of my family after that?” recollected the chairman of Amata Industrial Estates, the largest industrial-estate developer in Thailand.

“If traffic had been smooth that day, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” said the ever-smiling 53-year-old man.

Vikrom immortalised his homicidal intention in the opening chapter of his autobiography Pom Ja Pen Khon Dee (Be a Better Man: Dreaming of My Younger Days), which was launched last month.

“It is in the first chapter so that people will know about my bad character first. A son going to kill his father is a bad thing,” said Vikrom, who is the eldest of the 23 children of a sugarcane plantation owner.

“I want my readers to learn from my past, which has a lot of mistakes and bad things,” said the author, who is divorced and does not have any children.

One of the most important things readers would learn from the book is that even rich families have problems, he said.

“When you read about the bad things that happened in my family, would you want to repeat them?” he asked rhetorically.

Vikrom then revealed that when he was young, his parents constantly bickered because of his father’s many wives.

“One night my mother ordered me to get the girl who my father denied having an affair with. And my father told me not to go,” he said, recalling an incident that happened when he was 19.

In his hesitation to obey two contrasting orders, his hot-tempered father ordered his two bodyguards to restrain Vikrom. And he beat up his son.

“That was the first time I wanted to kill him,” Vikrom said.

During a one-hour interview at his Thai-styled penthouse in Bangkok, he was animated as he reeled off volatile anecdotes about his life.

Like the one where he scuffled with a Tibetan undertaker who went amok in Tibet last year.
The story ended with Vikrom, who was armed with a Swiss Army knife, disarming the Tibetan of his long undertaker knife.

“As I held him, I wanted to twist his head one round, two rounds,” he recalled excitedly.

Then there was the one about him ordering a gunman from his Kanchanaburi province to kill a “bad man”.

“In my 30 years in business, there were many bad people – lawyers, gangsters, businessmen – who I wanted to be killed,” he admitted. “But believe me, I did not do anything to them.”

Nonetheless, Vikrom was a picture of serenity in a July 2006 article by Forbes, which estimated his worth to be US$140mil (RM512mil).

“Inside a house floating on a lake in one of Thailand’s national parks, Vikrom Kromadit sits quietly with his eyes closed, surrounded by lotus flowers,” the Forbes reporter wrote.

The businessman who plans to donate US$110mil (RM401mil) in stock holdings to the Amata Foundation on his birthday next year spends 10% of his time on business.

“A lot of businessmen do everything by themselves as they don’t trust others. That’s the Chinese-style,” explained Vikrom, who is of Chinese descent. “My philosophy is if I don’t trust my people, then who am I going to trust?”

Vikrom lives like a monk (but in luxurious trappings) to purify his angry mood. He devotes himself to meditating, reading and writing.

So far, he has written three autobiographical self-help books. His next is on his business life and he has recorded his thoughts in books, “as in 100 or 1,000 years’ time, they will still be there”.

“As for me, I’m on the way to zero (death),” said the CEO of Amata, which means eternity.

(Published in The Star on Nov 19, 2006. Photograph courtesy of The Nation)