×

Political Life Imitates Pop Art in Star Struck Thailand

Marriage of U.S.-born actress to fugitive politician's son sparks social media storm

BANGKOK — Political life, pop culture and social media collided yesterday in Thailand when wealthy politician Chonsawat ‘Ae’ Asavahame announced that he had married soap opera superstar Janie Thienphosuvan.

Their nuptials pushed other news, including the hotly debated parliamentary clash between monarchists and those who want to grant an amnesty to fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, off the front pages — though the two issues are curiously connected.

Asavahame is the son of Vatana Asavahame, another politician on the run from Thai justice, believed to be currently holed up in Macau or Cambodia. A former interior minister, he was sentenced in 2008 to three years in jail on land-related corruption charges.

Janie is a 31-year-old American-born Thai, who has played in some 25 soaps and ranks among Thailand’s top paid stars. Her best-known role is as twins in “Raeng Ngao” (Reflections.)

Social media erupted with comments about her morality, the sincerity of his intentions and the whirlwind speed of their romance.

The couple held a press conference near Bangkok to show assembled media the marriage certificate that had been signed earlier that morning, to wave a hefty diamond ring, and, in true soap opera style, to display a recent medical certificate proving that Janie is not pregnant.

The controversy has many components. Asavahame has an 18-year-old daughter from a common-law marriage to an old-time singing star that ended some 10 years ago. Janie, who has long nurtured a squeaky clean image, and not so long ago issued statements about looking for love over money, was instantly labelled as a “husband stealer” and a “gold digger.”

The good-looking 45-year-old Asavahame has dated a string of models and minor celebrities, seemingly calculating that attractive arm candy in addition to an immense fortune can only help his political career. (He is currently mayor of Samut Prakan, the small province bordering Bangkok where his father is accused of buying and selling land.) So yesterday’s news caused other commentators to ask why Asavahame should marry Janie after a clandestine five-month affair?

The Attorney General’s Office has indicated that it might want to question Asavahame over photos that appear to show the couple recently receiving Vatana Asavahame’s blessings. Thai authorities say they are unsure of Asavahame senior’s whereabouts.

For Asavahame’s marriage to Janie to earn political amnesties for his father and Thaksin Shinawatra (elder brother of current prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra) would require Thai audiences and the voting public to accept a major suspension of belief. But the scriptwriters of this particular narrative have certainly struck a chord. Thai-language Google searches for “Janie” were reportedly double those for the phrase “amnesty debate.”

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • fundo logo

    Google‘s Area 120 Is Testing Fundo, a Crowdfunding Service for Creators (EXCLUSIVE)

    Google’s skunkworks lab Area 120 has been quietly testing an events-centric crowdfunding service for YouTubers, Variety has learned. Called Fundo, the service allows creators to invite their fans to virtual meet & greet sessions and other paid online events. A Google spokesperson confirmed the testing in a statement provided to Variety: “One of the many [...]

  • Telling Lies - Logan Marshall-Green

    Sam Barlow's 'Telling Lies' Government-Surveillance Thriller Game Sets Release Date

    After more than two years in the works, “Telling Lies” — the investigative thriller from acclaimed game creator Sam Barlow — is ready to take the stage. The game, produced with and released by Annapurna Interactive, will be available next Friday, Aug. 23, via Steam and Apple’s Mac and iOS app stores. “Telling Lies” will [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Will Stop Letting Copyright Holders Seize Revenue via Manual Claims on Very Short Music Clips

    YouTube is pushing back against overzealous copyright policing by music companies. Starting in mid-September, the video giant will forbid copyright holders from making manual claims to commandeer revenue generated by YouTube videos that include very short music clips (e.g., five seconds of a song) or “unintentional” music (like music from passing cars). “One concerning trend [...]

  • Chelsea Handler memoir book buy online

    Chelsea Handler Bonds With Alexa in iHeartRadio Smart Speaker Promo

    iHeartRadio has teamed up with Amazon to promote Chelsea Handler’s podcast “Life Will Be The Death Of Me.” Beginning this Thursday, users of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker and other devices with Alexa built-in can opt to get their mornings started with Handler cracking jokes and exchanging banter with the smart assistant. Users simply have to [...]

  • David Messinger, Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Hires CAA Veteran David Messinger as CMO

    Activision Blizzard tapped David Messinger, a former 15-plus-year veteran of CAA, as its first corporate-wide chief marketing officer. Messinger, based in Santa Monica, reports to Coddy Johnson, Activision Blizzard’s president and COO. It’s the first time the video-game company has appointed a CMO who will oversee the global marketing operations across all of Activision Blizzard [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content