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

Part III: Rally at "Artist Interaction" in Ayutthaya

August 3, 2004

1) Event #3: Rally at "Artist Interaction" in Ayutthaya
2) Epilogue
3) Acknowledgements

Click on the links to view photos!
Note: The photos featured were taken by a number of people. They have been uploaded to the Essential Action website as a service, but inclusion on the Essential Action website is not meant to imply ownership of them. If you would like to use one or more of the photos, please email the urls to Essential Action <> so that we can confirm which person/organization should be credited.


Early in the morning of August 3rd, the youth hopped on a bus and headed towards the historic city of Ayutthaya, an hour away from Bangkok. According to reliable sources, Philip Morris would be hosting an “Artists Interaction” within the city’s historic ruins. We planned to have a presence at the event by rallying outside of it. On our way to Ayutthaya, however, we were informed that the artists would in fact be processing by elephant to the event! As luck would have it, our bus arrived at the elephant mounting location just behind the buses transporting the artists, Philip Morris employees, and journalists. An ASEAN Art Awards billboard, a troupe of Thai dancers, and a row of elephants were there to greet us.

The elephants’ sported large ASEAN Art award logos on their foreheads

The people on the Philip Morris buses disembarked, and so did we! The Philip Morris organizers didn’t seem to want to stick around. The procession left almost immediately, led by ten elephants.

Apart from the tobacco control advocates who tagged along, the procession was made up of roughly 1/3 artists, 1/3 journalists, and 1/3 Philip Morris employees from throughout South East Asia. Conveniently, they were all wearing ASEAN Art Award badges that clearly identified the country they were from and whether they were an “Artist”, “Journalist”, or “Philip Morris” employee.

The youth donned their grim reaper costumes, unfurled their banners, grabbed their signs, and rushed to join the procession. Photos: 1, 2, 3

A U.S. youth poses with a “Hey PM, Asia’s not for sale” sign near some elephants

The youth pulled up alongside the procession...

...past the elephants...

...past the dancers at the very front...

...until they themselves were leading the procession! Photos: 1, 2

Meanwhile, a representative of the Virginia-based tobacco company “Licensed to Kill” was seen enthusiastically greeting Philip Morris executives from throughout region, praising them for excellence in the “art of selling death,” and inquiring whether Licensed to Kill might be able to co-sponsor the ASEAN Art Awards next time around.

The Licensed to Kill representative also handed out an event-related press release to the journalists covering the event

Eventually, we reached the final destination for the elephants, where one of the grim reapers posed next to the “Artist Interaction” welcome sign. The theme this year? "Ancient roots; modern bridges."

The youth spread out near an entrance to a pavilion that Philip Morris organizers instructed us we could not pass without a badge

But there was a huge expanse and not enough Philip Morris employees to block us from coming through. Dr. Hatai announced defiantly to the visibly frustrated coordinator of public relations for Philip Morris (Thailand) that the top public health official of Ayutthaya was with us and the company could not stop us from proceeding further.

The artists were greeted at the entrance to the Historic ruins by two rows of Thai drummers

When the youth tried to follow behind, Philip Morris event organizers rushed to lock the entrance gate!

But they couldn’t stop us from entering through a different gate, particularly since the area they were trying to prevent us from entering is open to the public!

At this point, Dr. Hatai held an impromptu press conference for the Thai television crews covering the story. Photos: 1, 2

The youth rally then proceeded through the historic ruins… (Photos: 1, 2)

…and to the closed entrance to the “Artist Interaction”

The artists were sitting under a large canopy, listening to various speeches. The governor of Ayutthaya, who had been invited to attend, was not present – presumably in response to a letter sent to him by the Thai Health Promotion Institute which strongly discouraging him from attending.

The youth assembled along the low wall and held their signs up high in the air, so everyone on the other side could see. Photos: 1, 2

They held the signs throughout the entire “Artist Interaction”

It was a hot and sticky day. The Philip Morris organizers - perhaps realizing that they couldn’t get rid of us and wanting to further emphasize the company’s generosity for the journalists present – brought cases of cold water over to the rally participants. At the same time, they tried to give us misinformation about how long the event would be taking place.

Dr. Hatai stands with the grim reaper and “Pack of Lies”

View all photos of the rally in Ayutthaya:


On August 4th, the ASEAN Art Awards ceremony was held at the Shangri La Hotel in Bangkok. Here is a Bangkok Post article about ceremony (features photo of the Grand Prize winner)

The Nation also did a story on one of the Jurors Prize winners from Vietnam. His painting, which features mass death, a grim reaper, and a man holding lots of cash, makes a statement against drugs -- somewhat ironic, given the main sponsor of the awards! Check out the story and a photo of the painting

A scene from the ASEAN Art Awards exhibit in the National Art Gallery

An article on the “Artist Interaction” in the Straits Times Interactive (Malaysia) reported on the rally in Ayutthaya:

“The persistent protesters quietly bore anti-tobacco signs and handed out flyers. Reacting, Mr Andrew White, vice-president of corporate affairs of Philip Morris Asia, says: 'We are a tobacco company and will always be criticised in whatever we do. We accept that…. Mr White puts the cost of organising this year's awards at 'between $400,000 and $600,000'. The company sponsors the awards because 'it is one way for us to give something back to our community'.”

What Philip Morris executives said privately about the youth rally is what we'd really like to know!


The events around the ASEAN Art Awards represented a true cross-border collaboration. A special thanks to Thai Health Promotion Institute for making the events possible and to all the Thai youth who came out for them. Special thanks are also due to the following individuals who contributed time and energy to the events:

THAILAND: Hatai Chitanondh, Lakkhana Termsirikunchai, Naowarut Charoenca, Nithat Sirichotiratana, Rohman Taowato, Steve Hamann, Pronvimol Kularach, Sukulya Suchan, Jaruek Chairak, Thitinob Gomolnimi, Juthimarch Suksai, and many others!

U.S.: Andrew Dahlgren, Chris Blitz, Kara Johnson, Ken Dahlgren, Kristina Dahlgren, Travis Muntz, Nicole Sutton

SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS: Thai Health Promotion Institute, Essential Action (US), Reality Check (US)

Main Page | Part I | Part II | Part III