Monday, April 14, 2008

Celebrity torch bearers

Thai film fans might recognize a couple of the celebrity Olympic torchbearers when the controversial beacon makes its leg through Bangkok.

Among them are singer-actress Ammara "Som" Siripong who played the mother Zin in Chocolate. That tattoo she's wearing in the movie is real, though it is hard to tell from this photo of her in a tracksuit. When she's not fronting her rock band, Ammara is a keen scuba diver and lover of nature. She was chosen to carry the torch because of her work on projects to conserve marine life around Koh Tao.

In a recent interview with Daily Xpress, Ammara said she wanted to keep the focus on the environmental themes the Olympic torch has sought to highlight, but have been overshadowed by protests over Olympic host China's human rights record in Tibet. Here are the last two questions and answers of the interview:

Q: What do you think about the protest in Tibet?

A: It’s a matter between these countries, which they have long-standing conflicts, it’s not about us. I respect the Dalai Lama who teaches good philosophies to people. I don’t know if those news are true that some said the Dalai Lama was behind the protest. Is it possible? Maybe they are just unclear information.

Q: What do you think about the Chinese Government’s use of violence to handle the protest?

A: I’d like to decline answering that question because it’s an international relation matter and we don’t know the truth or clear information to comment about it. And we live far from there.

Another celebrity torchbearer is Pornwut Sarasin. Outside Thailand, he might be better known as the husband playing opposite Lalita Panyopas in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy. But his day job is as an executive with Thai Namthip, the company that bottles and distributes Coca-Cola, proud sponsor of the Olympic torch. He is also vice chairman of the Coca-Cola Thailand Foundation, which supports many environmental causes.

The torch arrives in Bangkok on April 19. The route runs from Bangkok Chinatown's Yaowarat Road, past the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Defense Ministry, Sanam Luang, the Democracy Monument (ahem), Chitralada Palace and Parliament. These are all high-profile venues in the old part of Bangkok, where authorities are well practiced with securing parades and processions, as well as containing protest rallies.

Security will be tight. Additionally, Thailand is allowing China to bring in its own security detail for the torch's run, and ahead of procession, China has asked Thai intelligence officials to be on the lookout for such enemies of the people as the Falung Gong meditation cult, Taiwanese separatists and Tibetan resistance.

(Via Bangkok Pundit, The Nation, Daily Xpress)

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