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In Hot Water at the Deep End of the Pattaya Pool

September 28, 2018

For some ten years, the author was involved as an early pioneer in the privatization of the energy sector in Russia. Fortunately, the business was sold to a Russian entity and the foreign parties left with a smile on their respective faces which had remained reasonably intact. Russia was a difficult place then with contractual or extortion disputes settled in the streets with gunfire much like the “Old Texas Wild West.” Extortion based death threats were addressed by prepaid insurance policies of reciprocal action. Somehow, we cowboys survived, declared victory and went home with no desire to ever return.

One may wonder how this preamble relates to Pattaya, Thailand. First of all, the Thai resort town of Pattaya has 60,000 Russian residents and some 1.4 million Russians visit Thailand per year with Pattaya being a key destination. Russian involvement in Pattaya is evident running the gamut from Orthodox churches to Russian escorts in bars.

Russian ladies have captured a significant portion of the Pattaya bargirl market share that had been formerly dominated by Thai ladies since the Vietnam war era.

Thai/Russian relations which go back to the days of the Thai King Rama V and Tsar Nicholas II are now facing an interesting point in time.

In February of 2018, a Belarusian escort, Anastasia Vashukevich, Alexander Kirilov (a Belarusian man she calls her seduction coach) and six other Russians were arrested in a Thai police raid in Pattaya. What would have been simple and common Pattaya criminal charges of immigration violations and indecency have exploded with the subsequent inclusion of charges of conspiracy and belonging to a secret society with a trial set for January of next year.

Anastasia dropped a bombshell when she was arrested as she claimed to have audio recordings that indicated a link between Russian officials and the Trump election. She obviously thought she could escape all of her minor difficulties with this information serving as a “get out of jail free card.” Had she not played that card, she would have been long gone from Thailand. However, conviction of the conspiracy and secret society charges would result in a ten-year Thai prison sentence. This situation has to be one of the most dramatic “unintended consequences” in recent history.

Anastasia has indicated that she sent copies of her recordings to the Russian tycoon, Oleg Deripaska, with whom she maintains she had an affair and whose private conversations she recorded. Her hope was that the Russians would encourage the Thais to release her though it appears that the opposite may have happened to avoid an embarrassment for a number of people. In April, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Deripaska and six other Russians as punishment for interference in the 2016 election. In 2016, she embarked on a mission to seduce a Russian oligarch and was one of several models spending time on the yacht of Deripaska off the coast of Norway. Her apparent success allegedly continued following their return to Russia from the sailing adventure.

Paul Manafort, who was recently convicted of financial fraud, owed millions of dollars to Deripaska from a previous business venture. Manafort allegedly offered to provide Deripaska with private briefings on the Trump campaign and the relationship between Deripaska and Putin was well known. Now that Manafort has entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, there may be more Deripaska news forthcoming though there is no idea how it might impact Anastasia.

Accordingly, once Anastasia’s disclosures were in the public domain, Alexi Navalny, a Russian opposition figure of Putin, posted the incriminating images on YouTube. To be inexplicably caught in a squeeze play between Putin and any member of an opposition party is not a safe place to be. Moreover, when the background is one of potential Russian interference in the U.S. election, the consequences have reached a new stratosphere.

As difficult and dangerous as a Thai prison may be, perhaps it is a safer environment compared to being on the outside as has been evidenced even in the UK. One can only imagine the shock that Thai King Rama V and Tsar Nicholas II would have today considering what a small and tricky world that exists over 100 hundred years following their meeting.

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