Thai/U.S. Youth Crash Philip Morris ASEAN Art Awards Events

Part II: Rally at Thailand's National Art Gallery

August 2, 2004


1) Decade of Protest: Tobacco Control Advocates Decry Tobacco Sponsorship of Art Awards
2) Event #1: Training Educates Youth About ASEAN Art Awards and Builds Advocacy Skills
3) Event #2: Rally at National Art Gallery

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Ever since Philip Morris established the ASEAN Art Awards, tobacco control groups in South East Asia have been opposing the company’s sponsorship of it. Many campaigns have focused on discouraging prominent organizations and officials from co-sponsoring or otherwise supporting the awards. In 1994, for example, Thai tobacco control advocates launched a successful campaign to get Silkaporn University to withdraw its sponsorship of the Awards. Also in 1994, hundreds of delegates to the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Paris signed a letter to the Singapore Prime Minister urging him not to support the Awards. And in 1996, the theme of World No Tobacco Day was “Sports and Arts Without Tobacco.”

The specific purposes of this year’s events was to: 1) Discourage prominent government officials from attending ASEAN Art Awards event and legitimizing Philip Morris’ sponsorship of it. 2) Disrupt Philip Morris’ public relations objectives by generating controversy over the company’s involvement in the arts.


Thai and U.S. youth participated in a 2-day advocacy training leading up to the ASEAN Art Awards events. Here are a few photos from the training:

Dr. Hatai Chitanondh of the Thai Health Promotion Institute gives some historical background on Philip Morris’ sponsorship of the ASEAN Art Awards

Youth brainstorm talking points related to the ASEAN Art Awards

Youth prepare posters for the upcoming rallies

Youth do a role play, featuring mock media interviews, for the upcoming rally

Additional photos of the youth training are available at:


On August 2, Philip Morris sponsored a reception for the South East Asian finalists, company employees, and journalists at the National Art Gallery in Bangkok. The outside of the Gallery was festooned with signs and banners advertising the ASEAN Art Awards, prominently featuring the logos of the Ministry of Culture and ASEAN and noting Philip Morris as the sponsor. Photos: 1, 2

Right before the event started, Thai and U.S. youth and adult tobacco control advocates marched with signs and banners to the Gallery from a hotel several blocks away.

The rally participants all wore t-shirts with a skull and cross bones and the text “How Are Art and Death Related?” on the front and on the back:

“For the Last 10 years, Phillip Morris has been the sponsor of the ASEAN Art Awards. Publically, they lie and say they are sponsoring only for the sake of art. Their own documents show that the real reasons are to create public awareness of their brands and to have access to government officials".

Many youth wore Philip Morris ASEAN Art Awards “Pack of Lies” signs. Photos: 1, 2

Upon arrival at the rally site, the procession spread out along the walkway between two main entrances to the Gallery. Photos: 1, 2, 3

A youth dressed up as a grim reaper holds a sign that says
“Thai and U.S. youth against Philip Morris”

“The Art of $elling Death” sign is held in front of an ASEAN Art Awards billboard at the entrance to the Gallery

A sign featuring a Philip Morris quote about the real reason the company supports the ASEAN Art Awards

This Thai version of the “Pack of Lies” sign translates to “The Art of Death”

U.S. youth involved with NY’s Reality Check Program hold a banner that says “Don’t put your dirty money in art” (in Thai) and sign “Philip Morris + Art = Pack of Lies”

Nicole Sutton (HI-US) holds a “PM ASEAN Art Awards = Decade of Deceit” sign

A black banner reads “Stop Philip Morris manipulation” (Thai)

If they stood in a particular place, the rally participants could view the reception attendees mingling in the Gallery courtyard – and the reception attendees could see us. Chris Blitz of Reality Check (NY-US) holds up a “Pack of Lies” sign for the viewing pleasure of those inside. Photos: 1, 2

Many television crews, photographers, and journalists came to cover the rally, including several who had been inside the reception.

Philip Morris not only sponsors artists, it kills them. At one point during the rally, a Malaysian artist being honored added some deadly irony to the rally when he came outside to smoke a Marlboro cigarette. He was wary of having his photo taken, but two of his artist friends praised the rally and posed with the skull and cross bone t-shirts.

Indeed, not all artists are in with the company. A little while later, a Thai artist passing by told us of a street theatre against Philip Morris’ involvement in the Arts that several Thai artists would be performing at a nearby park later that weekend.

It was rumored that Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra himself would be attending the reception – exactly the sort of prominent official that Philip Morris seeks to influence. A few days before the reception, a letter was forwarded to the Prime Minister inviting him to pay a visit to the youth who would be standing outside the Gallery during the event. In the end, the Prime Minister chose to avoid any controversy by staying away from the event altogether.

A young Thai girl holds a sign that says (in Thai) “Philip Morris you produced those cigarettes, so why don't you smoke them yourself”

More photos of the rally may be viewed at:

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