The story was featured on newspapers and news shows across the world last week as 37-year-old Hatchai Niyomdecha talked about his chance discovery of a precious pearl changing his destiny and lifting his family out of poverty. That may well still be true but for Mr Hatchai himself, destiny for the foreseeable future appears to be an extended-term behind bars as a convicted drug dealer.
Police have brought a twisted end to the fairytale story of the Melo pearl, told last week in news bulletins across the world, after one of two brothers who discovered the precious item, was arrested over the weekend and is being charged in connection with serious drug offences.
Police officers in the Hua Sai district of Nakhon Si Thammarat have arrested the 37-year-old fisherman who was at the centre of a worldwide feel-good story on the media last week after he found a precious Melo pearl on the beach near his home in the Ko Petch subdistrict of the province.
37-year-old Hatchai Niyomdecha was taken away after senior investigating officers and a patrol from Hua Sai Police Station raided the home he shares with his family and which was the centre of such excitement only days ago.
Arrest warrant for older brother this weekend as police outed him as a key player in a local drugs ring
It is understood that police had both a search order for the property and an arrest warrant for the older brother of the two siblings who were featured in last weeks’ media frenzy.
Mr Hatchai had been on a police search list after he disappeared from the family home some time ago when 16,000 crystal methamphetamine pills were found in its vicinity.
Police suspected it was linked to the man’s known drug dealing activities and have revealed that the local plays a key role in an extensive drug network in the area.
It is reported that police obtained a warrant for his arrest after forensics linked him to the drugs find.
Police raid on the property found drugs and drug paraphernalia says a senior police officer in Hua Sai
Details of the police raid on the property were given by Police Lieutenant Colonel Chokdee Srimuang of Hua Sai Police Station who confirmed that a cache of class 1 narcotics was found at the home as well as two sets of drug paraphernalia.
He also confirmed that police had lost sight of Mr Hatchai’s whereabouts after he appeared to have left the family home until their attention was drawn to the news coverage last week.
It is understood that the fisherman stoutly denies the allegations being made against him after he was handcuffed and taken into custody where he now remains pending a range of drug possession, conspiracy and distribution charges.
Change of fortune in a matter of days
It is a very different prospect from last week when the older brother of the clan claimed that the Melo pearl would transform his life and that of his family.
‘I want to sell the pearl for the highest price. The money won’t just change my life, it will change my destiny. My whole family will have better lives,’ he told the press.
Last week, he revealed to reporters that he had a strange dream that he was visited by a man with a white robe and moustache who asked him to visit the beach to obtain a gift.
Washed up buoy with three snails and a treasure
There, Mr Hatchai and his 35-year-old brother found a buoy that had been washed ashore. Attached to the buoy were three sea snail shells which they prised off and took back to their 60-year-old father, Bangmad Niyomdecha.
As their father was cleaning the shells, he discovered the rare Melo pearl created by snail secretions over many years. This was also the most highly prized orange coloured one.
The value of a Melo pearl is that it can take many thousands of shells to find one and snail pearls cannot be farmed as oyster pearls now are. The orange colour also makes it exponentially more valuable.
The pearls are found in the South China Sea and are driven by the currents found off the coast of Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand.
Businessmen outbidding each other for the Melo pearl
Last week, it was reported that a Chinese businessman had contacted the family urgently offering ฿10 million for the pearl but insisted he had to see and examine it first.
He is understood to have flown to Bangkok and is currently serving his 14 days compulsory quarantine period at a hotel.
His offer was preceded by one of ฿5 million from a collector in Thailand and the first offer was from a local businessman of ฿1 million. Both were rejected by the family who were advised by neighbours as to its value.
As for the destiny of 37-year-old Mr Hatchai, it looks like, for now, it has been intercepted by another twist of fate and the dim view taken by the Royal Thai Police of those linked with drug dealing in the kingdom.