BANGKOK – When a photo showing a young actress of a popular series taking drug as her friend looked on started to surface on the internet, many people in the social network simply shrugged, thinking it was another viral marketing campaign.
After all, viral advertisement, which purported to have captured celebrities in outrageous moments and turned out to be endorsement of certain products later, is becoming more common in Thailand.
Just last month, the internet was brewing with controversy about an actress who was filmed shouting abuse at her fans in a shopping mall. The actress was forced to speak out later on a TV talk show, explaining that the incident was in fact a stunt for US-based candies Snickers.
The series in which the girl was featured – called Hormones – also has reputation about showing controversial actions of teenagers such as having sex and smoking in school.
Therefore, many people were not really surprised when PR team of the 16-year-old star reassured its audience on Facebook yesterday (25 July) that the picture was simply a teaser for a separate TV show which would feature a scene showing drug abuse with a moral message at the end of the show that drugs are bad for teenagers.
The statement also promised a press conference later in the day in which the actress would explain all about it. The press conference did take place, but what followed is enormously off the script.
Instead of the star, her father appeared at the press conference and, in front of dozens of reporters assembled there, said that his daughter admitted to him that she did take methamphetamine and was photographed doing so. She did not know how the photo leaked, the father said, and she told him she only tried the drug "once".
"I and my family and my daughter are very sorry about the naive action … Please accept apology from my daughter. She did it out of naivety. She is young, she has no experience in life," her father said.
The father did not give much detail and, after talking to the press for only 5 minutes or so, left the press conference. But the brief press event quickly convinced members of the media that the news has escalated into a drug abuse case of an underage actress.
As Thai publishing regulations prohibits identification of underage individual involved in potentially criminal action, Khaosod cannot identify the actress by her real name.
Meanwhile, Mr. Songyot Sukmark-anand, the director of the Hormones series, said in a press conference that he initially thought the photo was part of the PR team′s viral marketing campaign as the series had adopted many methods to promote the show.
"I was shocked when I learned what really happened," Mr. Songyot said.
He told the reporters the producer of the series, GMM Thai Hub, might be forced to cut scenes or even the entire episodes that showed the actress.
A director of GMM Thai Hub, Mr. Yongyut Tongkongtun, who was present at the press conference, said the company will still "give chances" to the young star as she would have learned many lessons from the incident. He praised her father for speaking out so frankly to public and taking responsibility.
Mr Yongyut said he had been informed by the young actress? father that she wished to take a break from the show business "for now".
Hormones is broadcast weekly on a cable channel owned by the GMM company and its past episodes have ben uploaded on Youtube for wide audience.
It should be noted that for Hormones producers, the meth-taking incident could not have arisen at a worse timing. Just a day before the revelation that one of its stars was taking narcotics, a high-ranking official at the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said that he might censor the show for featuring "inappropriate actions".
Lt.Gen. Pirapong Manakit cited scenes such as the student characters emerging from school bathroom after sex, visiting abortion clinic, and buying contraceptive pills as examples that would lead the young Thai audiences astray.
"Although Hormones did not explicitly show scenes involving sexual intercourse, but it could lead us to imagine about what was happening. Many people say the series portrayed true story that happens in our modern-day society, but as a puu yai in this society I am considering whether we find such portrayal acceptable," Lt.Gen. Pirapong was quoted as saying.
Lt.Gen. Pirapong threatened invoking the notorious Chapter 37 of the broadcasting laws which forbid dissemination of material on the media that would disrupt national security or "morality" of the public.
Ms. Supinya Klangnarong, another member of the NBTC, clarified later that Lt.Gen. Pirapong′s statement is not consensus of the Commission, and there is no action being taken against Hormones.
However, considering the largely-conservative machinery of the state censorship in Thailand, very few people expect that Hormones would be left unscathed – especially after the the arrival of the meth photo scandal.
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