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27 Apr 2006

an 'affair' to forget

A popular pop star in Thailand has become embroiled in a "he said, he said" scandal after news reports revealed that he had received gifts worth over Bt7 million (US$185,000) from a wealthy businessman who appeared on a TV talk show on Wednesday night. Fridae's Bangkok columnist Vitaya Saeng-Aroon has more.

Popular singer-actor Rattapoom Tokongsub, also known as "Film," did not have a clue that a house, a condominium, a Mini Cooper, a computer, jewellry, credit cards and trips abroad, among others worth more than Bt7 million (US$185,000), that he received from a businessman as gifts "of affection" would turn out to be a national scandal.

Singer-actor Rattapoom Tokongsub aka "Film" (above) allegedly received a house, a condominium, a Mini Cooper, a computer, jewellry, credit cards and holidays from Sittikorn Boomchim (bottom), a wealthy businessman who now calls him ungrateful and a liar.
In a continued series of detailed conflicts against each other via press conferences, starting last week, one thing both sides have shared is that they never have sexual relationship.

Rising star Film, 22, is a successful singer expected to follow in the footsteps of the country's longtime number one male singer Thongchai McIntyre (Bird) from a competing music company, Grammy Entertainment - the country's largest records label.

Film's good looks and his heavily publicised image as a hard-working young man and a grateful son has won many hearts and is a role model for youths.

But Sittikorn Boomchim, a businessman, does not think so.

The scandal was revealed when a local newspaper reported that the singer-actor was supported financially by a businessman for unknown reasons.

Film denied it when the news first broke, and defended himself by saying that there were many people making claims of knowing him to take advantage of his celebrity status.

Later, he said he was not sure who the person was because there were many people helping his family when they were in a financial crisis. Film did not acknowledge Sittikorn in the interview.

Sittikorn, chairman of Diamond Hills Co. Ltd - who made his fortune selling Buddhist amulets, said in a press conference and several media interviews that he was dismayed by the singer's response especially the denial of his existence as a person who had saved the singer's family from losing their mortgaged house. He said the house was a birthday gift for the star.

The singer later acknowledged Sittikorn for helping his family. The press also reported that Sittikorn was a friend of his mother's and the house was given to his mother, and not to him.

However when more details were revealed to public, Film said he was confused and accepted that he had known Sittikorn personally and acknowledged the fact that Sittikorn had helped his family.

A tabloid, in association with Film's records label - RS Plc., published with an in-depth report that a businessman was trying to blackmail the singer and the businessman was once in involved in a fraud scandal and engaged in court trials.

In addition, the tabloid report suggested that a rival records label - Grammy Entertainment - was somehow behind the controversy because Mr. Sittikorn earlier gave an interview to a radio station belonging to Grammy and the interview was meant to tarnish Film's image especially.

Film is said to be RS Plc.'s top male singer.

The relationship between the two started when Film was sent by RS Plc. as a member of a group of male singers to perform in a Songkran Festival celebration last year, an event organised by Sittikorn.

Sitikorn claimed his provision of gifts, credit cards, a car, and a condominium, and others, to the singer was all made out of his affection as he treated the singer as a "younger brother," without any sexual intents.

He hopes for people whom he "helped," including boys and girls, to "help" him when he grew old; and he believed the singer was a grateful and sincere person that was worth helping out.

In a press conference, Sittikorn provided evidence to prove his financial support and his closeness to the singer, including slips of credit cards, copies of supplement credit cards under the singer's name, documents of house ownership transfer, air tickets, and even a small paper note that Film thanked Sittikorn who agreed to take him on as one of the singers troop to sing in the Songkran event last year. The note contained Film's cellphone number.

Sittikorn also mentioned that Film usually spent "more than" he was told by using the credit cards and that Film has never returned the money.
The businessman also said though Film was famous but he did not have a big chunk of money in the bank nor did he have enough for his own expenses and since no one gave him a hand at the end of the day, it's him who had helped the singer as he had always gone to "consult" with the elder man about his needs.

Film and Sittikorn's holiday pics in Hong Kong and Film's Mini Cooper given to him by Sittikorn.
Meanwhile, Film said in his press conference that he never asked for the gifts as it's Sittikorn who made the offers, and with teary eyes, that he was never ungrateful. In response to an allegation that Film distanced himself from meeting Sitikorn after Valentines' Day, Film said:

"It's a misunderstanding. I did not know what he really wanted. That he said I did not have time to meet him, I would say that I don't even have time to sleep. Each day, I have two or three hours to sleep. I work like 24 hours. But I never ran away or hid myself from him," Film said.

When a reporter asked if Film ever said "love" to him in a separate interview, Sittikorn replied, tongued in cheeks, that if not, he would not have instantly transferred the ownership of the house to the singer after a trip to Hong Kong earlier this year.

Asked if he had a gay relationship with Sittikorn, Film admitted that while they had shared the same bedroom during a Hong Kong trip, they slept in separate beds.

Film further announced in a press conference, "I'm one hundred per cent (straight) man."

However, on many community webboards, people voiced suspicion that their relationship must have been beyond financing and brotherhood.

While Sittikorn did not mention his own sexual orientation, he admitted that in addition to Film, he is also "helping out" several other young singers. Sittikorn insisted that his love for the singer was brotherly and his revelation was to give him a lesson about being honest and grateful, and to send a message to him to stop his "image building" tactics.

"He is still young (and naive). I've got to say all this to protect my credibility in business as people were starting to confuse about who's telling the truth. I did not want to hurt him or destroy him. But like parents punishing their kids to be good persons, in this, it's like slapping him in the face, not killing him," said Sittikorn in a packed room during his first official press conference.

On Sunday, new reports said that Film's record label RS Plc. is prepared to file a lawsuit against Sittikorn. He is however indignant saying that should the matter go to court, more details about the relationship of him and Film would be exposed.

In another blow to the scandal this week, Sittikorn said in a TV talk show on Wednesday night that he would leave the matter to rest and not expose new "evidence" which shows intimacy between the two provided Film keeps his mouth shut which signals Film's acknowledgement of his wrongdoing in handling the matter. Sittikorn also said he would not care if Film would pay back the money or not.

But that might not happen.

Film rattled on and was quoted by a local newspaper from his interview given to another TV talk show (expected to be on air on Monday, May 1) that he felt no trouble at all about what had happened, given that his bookings for events and commercial ads contracts remained strong.

He maintains that he did not sell himself for the money and what Sittikorn exposed or would expose does not worry him at all. He did not mention if he would return the money, nor felt any urge to contact Sittikorn, among other denials which appeared to conflict with what he had said in his previous press conference.

Film's latest "cold" and "daring" reaction is expected to trigger another move by Mr. Sittikorn, as predicted by observers who wrote on news webboards.

A source from music industry revealed that there are many male singers and actors who are being supported financially by "Sia" (meaning businessmen/ wealthy men). "It's like a hush-hush in the industry. The record labels and PR people of the actors/singers know all about this."

Thailand

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