Op 6 December 2000, in China Town van Bangkok, gebeurde het. Echter, Anouk en ik hebben beide de situatie geheel anders geinterpreteerd en hebben anders gereageerd. Hoe kan dat? Anouk heeft foto’s genomen, maar ik heb dat nooit gezien. Ik was te druk met het in kaart brengen van de straten (en mensen op straat) om ons heen, omdat ik zocht naar de beste route om onopvallend -“ik heb niets gezien, echt niet”- weg te komen. Anouk heeft nooit beseft dat de situatie potentieel bedreigend was, maar nam gewoon FOTO’s (!). Ook zag ze niet dat de mensen rondom ons op het terras, ons in de gaten hielden. Ook later tijdens de reis, heeft ze me niet verteld dat ze foto’s heeft genomen. Daar kwam ik jaren daarna pas achter. [dit is deel 4]
Anouk and I both were in the same situation, 6 December 2000. We took different stories home.
In the picture left, Anouk (in front) sits in the back of the pick-up truck, while we were driving across the Cambodian border into the Cambodian jungle. The three people behind her are (likely) secret agents. The Caucasian man (right) made sure his face was not in the picture. The rest of the people in the same pick-up truck were just local travelers.
My friend Anouk had recognized minister Korthals that day, even before I did. But she was so focused on him, she never realized how the people sitting next to us on the terrace were part of it. She had no idea we were being watched and followed. Somehow, she did not even realize it was a potentially dangerous situation. Naive, yes.
But I also missed something entirely. While I analyzed the scene and streets around us in China Town (Yaowarat) for the best escape route, Anouk took pictures (!). So that day in Bangkok, in those few minutes, we both saw a lot and replied to it, but in very different manners. This might surprise the reader, so read slowly. This is what happened.
Anouk never told me she had taken these pictures. – why ??? – How did this happen? Anouk is the last person on earth you’d expect to take immediate action in a stressful situation. She is just not good with stress. And she is not too quick in interpreting new unknown circumstances. Why did she behave totally out of character? By now I know Anouk had been surrounded by secret agents for over a year, who had been influencing her in all sorts of ways, without her being aware of it.
I saw a lot of what was happening in the streets around us, but I did not see her take pictures. It must have taken her 10-15 seconds to take pictures. And she never told me.
What do I remember about Anouk and her pictures during the trip? I remember how Anouk during the entire trip was obsessed with her film roles. She was taking care of them, the same way I guard my passport and travelers cheques when traveling. It annoyed me.
What about Anouk?
What did we discuss during the trip? She had quit her job at the university a few months before. One of her colleagues whom she had met that year, had discussed with Anouk what kind of career move would be suitable for her. After many long discussion, they came up with the idea of freelance journalism. Anouk thus quit her job and started a new phase in her life, looking for stories she could write about.
Through this same friend/colleague, not long after, she was introduced to a man with whom she became friends just before our trip. He gave her advice on how to become succesful as a freelance journalist. This man even borrowed her his expensive professional photocamera for our Thailand trip. He even trained her an afternoon so she’d be able to take high-quality pictures without being noticed. As a freelance journalist -she was told- it is important to always bring the camera, even when you go to a shop just around the corner of your hotel, as you never know when you run into a story. If you do run into a story: do not think twice, take the pictures and never tell anyone about it. Indeed, these friends have been very helpful. There was even a new film role in the camera when she borrowed it. Anouk still does not consider how it all might be too much of a coincidence.
So how come we were in Thailand at the exact right time? Anouk and I had decided to go to Asia together backpacking for a month. Anouks new friends told her many stories about Thailand. It was the best holidays they had ever had. Anouk thus insisted on Thailand, while I preferred Cambodia.
At work, my project at Corus in Wales ended exactly the first week of December, which is why we flew to Bangkok on the 5th of December 2000. My manager had told me a few months before, how he would prefer me to take a long holiday in December, as December usually is a month with not too much project work.
All this was set-up, to make sure we would arrive in Bangkok around the 6th of December. It was all taken care of. Yet, it is impossible to control everything. Things do go different from what ‘they’ predict. Only very stupid people are perfect puppets. The rest of us can be fooled or tricked, but not controlled. When something is not going as planned (for example when I realized we were being watched by a Dutchman on the terrace even before someone said “pedophiles”; and also when I did not see Anouk take pictures because I was studying how we could escape), somehow agents have a blind spot. They just cannot imagine Anouk not talking to me about the pictures. It was critical to their entire plan. Anouk never told me how she had taken pictures of the pedophile orgy. Anouk is not a good communicator in stressful situations.
I thus had no idea how dangerous the situation was (Anouk took pictures!), still I was aware it might become a problem if they a) would find out who we were and/or b) they thought we might do something with the information. Anouk did not even consider the possibility we might be in danger. Luckily, when I proposed to go to Cambodia the next day, Anouk agreed, even though she never for one minute considered it to be a risky situation at all. I remember how she even laughed at me in Siem Reap (Cambodia), when I blocked our bedroom door and window, so we would wake-up if someone would try and enter our room.
In the years after
In the years afterwards, Anouk still did not tell me about the pictures. Around that time, I told her many times, I was being stalked terribly at work by colleagues who behaved extreme jealous or something. Since weird things had happened in my life since 1998, I never thought it had to do with this. Also, Anouk was not being stalked, so the stalking did not seem to be about the Bangkok event and I thus tried to forget about it.
In 2004, out of the blue, Anouk told me she had shown some of the pictures from Bangkok to all her friends. I had no idea what she was talking about. She told me I was in the pictures as well. I did not understand what she was saying and thought she was talking about our holiday pictures from Thailand. Then she told me she had thrown away all the pictures and she wanted to show me only this one picture…. And then I got very nervous. It was a picture of me, with Korthals in the background. I was shocked. Really shocked.
It made me confused and angry at the same time. I had no idea she had taken pictures and I certainly did not know I was in it (without me being aware of it, she took life threatening pictures of me!). And then she never told me about it, which is again terrible. And now, years later, she had shown these pictures, with me in it, to her friends, without consulting me first. Does this woman even have a brain? Does she ever think about anyone else but herself? Or is she simply not thinking about consequences for others at all?
Anouk then took this last picture she had of Korthals and threw it away before I could even think about what I wanted to do with it. I was still shocked. Who in their right mind would go handle a situation like this in this manner? And the picture she had kept did not show the entire group, so it seemed useless to me. She had already thrown away the rest of the pictures, after showing them to all her friends. She had decided herself, all by herself, how she did not want to do anything with it. So she changed her mind after taking pictures.
Having only this one specific picture with not the whole group visible, to me seemed more a risk instead of an opportunity. Also, since I had myself been haunted by all sorts of cheap gossip and made-up stories about child abuse spread by jealous colleagues (when they learned I had a serious problem with my mother), the last thing I needed was a scandal concerning child abuse. Moreover, the Bangkok story was years ago and I had never been aware of any problems with authorities in my country. The only kind of problems I had were jealous colleagues.
Bart, a real good friend
Looking back, I remembered how one of her friends “Bart” had asked me at a party how I liked the pictures from Bangkok. This was before I even knew Anouk had taken these specific pictures. I remember how he smiled at me, almost sadistic. He studied every detail of my face. I had no idea why he looked at me like that, when talking about the pictures from Bangkok. I myself had pictures from Bangkok (most people have pictures from holiday destinations), so what was the big deal? It was odd.
When I decided to do something
In July 2011, I realized I had to do something. As any action taken by me might impact Anouk, I did not want to do anything without consulting her first. A joint approach for the situation would be the best. What happened next, entirely unexpected? Anouk (we had been friends since 1997) pretended not to be at home and was hiding in her kitchen when I knocked on her door. And I was only there to ask her what she would prefer as a response to the whole situation. Then she called the police. It would have been enough if she had just explained she did not want to see me again. It would have been more than enough if she had only threatened to call the police, but no: She called the police on me, while I was standing in front of her door, trying my best not to raise any suspicion with her neighbors.
Half an hour later, the police took me to Anouk’s house (in handcuffs) asking her why she had called them. According to Anouk, I was confused and had mental problems. She only had difficulties explaining in full sentences what exactly I had done wrong or what was wrong with me. I still do not know if Anouk claims she has never been to Thailand, or if she claims she never saw any pedophiles, or maybe she claims she did not have anything to do with taking pictures. She was unable to express her points of view. The only thing she could say was that she thought I had mental problems. What is this? She was the one taking the pictures (I did not even see her do this). I was the one who made sure we could escape to Cambodia. Did I leave her behind? No, it never crossed my mind.
To make it even worse, Anouk phoned her sister who is a lawyer. This lawyer Ms Vanherf demanded from the policeman, I should be taken into custody and put in a mental institution for observation for three days to find evidence I needed be institutionalized (forced into a mental institution). This is terrible extreme violent and unjust behavior against an innocent citizen, who has done nothing wrong. It was an attempt to get rid of me for good, while I have always been a loyal friend. Remember, Anouk took the pictures to make a career in freelance journalism. She had even used me in Bangkok to keep a cover to hide behind, so she could take the pictures without being noticed.
Anouk had alternatives to deal with the situation. Her sister is a lawyer. She worked as a journalist for TV Brussel and her partner had also worked as a TV-producer in the past. They not only knows the media world, but also have excellent contacts in the political scene in Brussels through their work, which they could have contacted to help solve the situation. Moreover, she has a Belgium passport, instead of a Dutch passport. She was safe, while I was in danger because of her.
Anouk could have just let me know she wanted no contact with me anymore. A threat to call the police would be enough to make me go away. Instead, Anouk did everything possible to convince the police to ‘delete me from society’. She likely would have been glad to see me locked away in a mental institution for the rest of my life.
The police did not believe the story Anouk was telling. It did not add up. I stayed calm even when in handcuffs. Also, she had shown them a picture of me (to identify me) when searching for me on the streets. That picture was taken a few weeks before, when I was holding her newborn baby. Any policeman understands the picture is actually proof there is something wrong with Anouk: I am holding her baby, just a few weeks before. Who would give her baby to someone they claim is aggressively insane? It did not add up.
I was taken in custody by the Jetten police because of the (unclear) story made-up by Anouk and her lawyer. The police was terrible. When I asked why I was taken, it was because I was behaving difficult when approached by the police. Then the police tried everything to break me, even though they knew I was not a criminal at all. I was exposed to all sorts of illegal intimidating and aggressive behavior, because the policeman wanted to know what I was doing in Brussels. I had done nothing wrong and was not allowed to phone a lawyer. I was kept for three hours. I was even threatened to be put naked in a police cell with a male prisoner, so he could “do as he wanted”. Remember, I ‘d done nothing wrong!
The police men tried everything to make me talk about what Anouk might be angry or afraid about. But no matter what they tried, I did not talk to them. Why on earth would someone cooperate when treated this badly? Who is teaching the police to intimidate normal civilians like this? Police violence against innocent citizens seems to have become the norm. When civilians remain calm in police custody, do they think they have gotten respect with their behavior? Or are they simply enjoying the power abuse?
In short, I did not reveal the names we had seen in Bangkok, not back then, in 2011.