Celebrity sex scandal a welcome distraction for Thais
For weeks, millions of Thais have been eagerly turning on their TVs to tune into a real-life soap opera sex scandal and dropping X-rated details into their chat-chit while ignoring the uglier side of life in this troubled kingdom.
Thailand might be struggling with the dangerous consequences of a military coup, bloody insurrection, deadly bombing spree and other mayhem in Bangkok, but most popular opinions you'll hear these days are all about "Annie" and "Film."
These two superstars -- Rungnapa "Annie" Brook and Rattapoom "Film" Tokongsub -- have been gobbling up the media and minds of Thailand since September in a seemingly never-ending sleazy saga involving whether or not Film is indeed the father of Annie's son, as she claims.
Each day, the nation becomes transfixed when the scandal's increasing number of characters strut, cringe, mumble, weep or grimace in the glare of TV spotlights.
DNA tests and gold-digging accusations
Members of the general public are either thrilled or disgusted with the twists and revelations concerning whose spermatozoa impregnated Annie's ovum. And it's all compounded by her refusal to have a DNA test on the three-month-old son she now carries around, even on stage during TV talk shows, while pleading her case as an unwed mother.
"I accept the fact that I will probably have to raise the child alone," she said, crying during a speech on TV.
Questions abound. Is Annie a conniving gold-digger? Should Thailand's sensationalized masses support Film's demand that Annie agree to a DNA paternity test? The drama was heightened on October 4, when Film overdosed on pills and was rushed to a hospital.
RS Promotion's CEO, Surachai Chetchotisak, is meanwhile suffering a financial backlash against his music and movie company, after he loudly blabbed that Annie cavorted with four men last year, including Film.
"She told them she was pregnant, and asked from them 250,000 baht each," Surachai said, hinting at an alleged scam. "One was 'Film'. Another was Channel 3 actor Kittikoon 'Joon' Samritpansuk."
The Bangkok Post reported: "While 'Film' was willing to accept responsibility, 'Joon' had agreed to pay the woman the money she demanded, and took flight overseas."
Joon said he ultimately did not pay, but did resign from his job. Annie's fans demand Thais boycott RS Promotion, which is Film's movie and record label, as vengeance against Surachai's mouth.
A thinly veiled form of release?
So is this seemingly mindless, and obviously common, paternity scandal actually a way for stressed Thais to safely relieve their tension, especially now that their country is wracked by violent political polarization amid predictions that more bloodshed will be coming soon?
Ironically, in both cases -- on Bangkok's recently barricaded streets and in Annie's lusty bedroom -- the question of who screwed who, and why, now needs to be answered.
Many activities in Thailand appear blatantly in your face, whether you like it or not, but this rigidly hierarchal society also forces people to whisper about things that they are too afraid, or unsure of, to voice in public.
So their chatter and escape into gossip may be allowing them to exchange opinions about morals, taboos and other codes of conduct in the safer zone of ephemeral pop culture. This sad, convoluted tale also provides an educational mirror for millions of Thai females who might otherwise give birth and then suffer abandonment by their boyfriend or husband, condemning the mother and child to a life of woe.
Annie, a Swiss-Thai, says she does not want to undergo a DNA test because she wants to keep her baby.
''If I agree to a test, I am worried Film's family will want to take him away, and raise my son as their own,'' Annie said.
But the scandal is now out of control.
"Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced today the suspension of all major government activities, including post appointments, budget decisions, foreign state visits, prosecution of arrested Red Shirt leaders, and 3G licensing until the paternity scandal involving actor-singer Rattapoom 'Film' Tokongsub reaches a satisfactory conclusion," reported the satirical website, NotTheNation.com.