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He returned to Thailand in 1940 but was then sent to finish his formal education at the University of Minnesota in the United States where he earned a business degree.Thailand's Government supported Japan in World War II and so, like many Thai students then in the US, Udom joined the pro-Allied Free Thai Movement.


At one time or another, most Asia hands will have visited Patpong, the famous nightclub and commercial sex district in the heart of Bangkok. It was used as a Japanese military headquarters in World War II.

Its clubs are famous for shows that feature young women and the inevitable ping pong balls. The fact that so much so flagrantly illegal occurs there right under the noses of the Thai police and the Thai Government has long generated rumours of senior military, political or even royal connections. And then in 1946, it was sold to an immigrant from China's Hainan Island, who had been awarded the Thai name of Patpongpanich (sometimes written as Patpongpanit) by the king.

Udom Patponsiri, Patpongpanich's eldest son, inherited the land and built shophouses along the road that his father built.

Udom then found tenants for the buildings and the area evolved into the world's most famous red light district. He studied at the London School of Economics from 1936 to 1938 after his early education in Thailand.

The massive build-up of US armed forces in Vietnam and Thailand in the '60s saw the demand for evening entertainment grow rapidly in Bangkok.

By 1968, a variety of nightclubs had opened along Patpong.He received training from the US Army and from what was to become the CIA at Fort Benning, Georgia.He was to return to Thailand in 1945 to work as an undercover agent but the war ended.Tall office towers stand nearby, but Patpong is lined with the shophouses that Udom built in the '50s.One of the Patpongpanich family's biggest lessees is the King's Group, owned and managed by another Thai-Chinese businessman and his son.Patpongpanich is said to have paid 60,000 baht (then about $US2400) for the land.

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