Published on July 17, 2007
TV host ML Nattakorn Devakula isn't all that comfortable with the camera. Posing for a portrait, his smile has a bit of a smirk. The twist might be understandable: He admits his life hasn't been so easy lately.
"Since I've become more famous it seems that more people want more things from me, and with that comes more work and more pressure, so I don't actually enjoy my life the way I used to," he tells The Nation.
Being the son of former finance minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, Nattakorn is perhaps inevitably a target for criticism, and his inability to bite his tongue when the topic is politics doesn't help.
Nattakorn earned a reputation for reliable political analysis while co-hosting Channel 11's English-language show "Newsline". He weighs up the stock market on Channel 9 and the latest financial news on Channel 5, and writes a column for the Bangkok Post every Thursday.
Then he joined Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda's popular TV news-talk programme and the limelight expanded considerably. But things didn't go smoothly, and a dissatisfied Nattakorn left the show after a few weeks.
At the moment there's a Nissan Tiida TV commercial featuring Nattakorn that seems to be mocking Sorrayuth's show, airing immediately after it, in fact. It's an unprecedented move for someone who would prefer to be seen as a serious journalist, but Nattakorn defends it as "a form of artistic expression".
Expressive is a good word for Nattakorn, a born extrovert who found television to be a perfect outlet. He's edged into outright show business by hosting the game show "Black Sheep" on Channel 3 and is booked for three more adverts, but he swears that's the end of it - no more show-busy jobs after mid-July is his promise.
Not that it's "evil" to do that kind of work, he says, but if he's going into politics - and that is the plan - Nattakorn will have to command respect. In turn, he says, "I can't work with someone who doesn't respect me."
Nattakorn is a confident man, having acquired fame and money of his own, even if it seems he's had an easy life.
"I've achieved the unachievable," he laughs. "I have become more famous than my own father, so I am not overshadowed!"
Journalism is his forte, he says, just as banking is his father's realm. Nattakorn admits he wouldn't mind a bit more cash. "I have very little money - much of the money is with my father. I'm not saying I wouldn't want it, but I don't get it."
Nattakorn often talks to his father about politics and finance and that gives him an insider's perspective, but it's information he would never share publicly.
"When we discuss politics I'll say to him, 'This guy did this because of this', but he'll tell me, 'No, this guy did this because of that'. But few people know this is the real reason. The public doesn't get the truth."
For lack of absolute proof and hard evidence, Nattakorn can't share such revelations with his viewers and readers. That's a standard he feels has fallen among newspapers, which he says are getting out of control.
Television news offers more integrity, he believes, while the Internet - utterly free of monitors - worries him deeply. He frets over a "virus of unfiltered facts" being passed on to young minds.
Nattakorn's entry into politics can be expected in three to five years. He's already building a campaign war chest, he says, and mustering the patience and fortitude he knows he will need once he gets into such a "complicated" arena.
"Good people need to come into politics," he says. "The whole problem with this country is that good and capable people don't want to get into the dirty mess, so they leave the political games up to the same old folks. You get a lot of people wanting to help, but in the end they say, 'Politics is not for me'.
"But I am thinking differently. I am thinking that I can make a difference, even if it's only a small difference. It's something I've thought about ever since I was young."