An American-born Thai social media influencer is hemorrhaging after being accused of misappropriating donations he collected for Chiang Mai firefighters and praising scandal-tainted Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.
Sean Buranahiran, a self-proclaimed “life coach”, had 4 million Facebook fans on Thursday. Today he has 2.9 million.
The 29-year-old, who was born and grew up in America before relocating to Thailand where he created an online persona of an inspirational motivator, is accused of defrauding fans who contributed 875,000 baht to his fundraising campaign for understaffed Chiang Mai firefighters.
The problem? The firefighters said they haven’t seen a satang of the money.
A Facebok user claiming to be a volunteer on the northern firefighting squad posted to the “Mam Pho Dam” page Friday that the unit has never received any donations. Outraged fans called Buranahiran a fraud, asserting he should be arrested and refund all the money. They then voted with their tapping fingers, un-liking his page 1.1 million times.
The scandal erupted as Buranahiran was still putting out a fire he lit the day before by posting a video of him and Prawit, new leader of the Palang Pratcharat Party and wearer of 22 “borrowed” luxury watches, planting a tree together while praising his character. Buranahiran’s young, anti-military fans were not amused.
Watching his income stream spinning around the drain faster than the coronavirus is spreading is his native America, Buranahiran quickly published a “clarification” on his Facebook page, explaining how all that fan money was spent. That only added fuel to the fire.
The social influencer, who also posts saccharine inspiration videos on YouTube, claimed he’d been doing God’s work in advancing the cause of the downtrodden firefighters battling against farmers who burn their fields and create choking haze, even if he never game them a baht.
He said he has been traveling to Chiang Mai – on his own dime mind you – and producing videos for two years – without being paid mind you – to learn about the “problems facing Chiang Mai people” and spent 100,000 baht to help those in need.
But he also admitted he spent 254,000 baht on editing videos and promoting posts through paid Facebook ads – all of which helped promote his own page, not the firefighter volunteers’ page.
And although fans thought they were helping the men battling the farm-field burning crisis, he gave 30,000 baht of their moneyto a children’s charity, spent money for hill tribes to learn about sustainable agriculture, and made donations to hospitals for their work against the coronavirus. He also funded a trip to Chom Thong to meet the governor for more Covid-19-related business, plus more cash on hand sanitizer and social-distancing initiatives.
he also admitted he spent 254,000 baht on editing videos and promoting posts through paid Facebook ads – all of which helped promote his own page.
No worries, though, because Buranahiran said he has receipts for everything which his buddies at Provincial Police Region 5 signed off on as legit.
While clearly a quarter of Buranahiran’s fans think he’s a fraud, it’s unclear if actual criminal fraud charges will be filed against him.
But even if they aren’t, the bloom is now off the rose for the influencer with the rapidly waning influence. Former fans not only think the American is a grifter, but a neophyte in matters of Thai politics by suggesting the media exaggerated Prawit’s actions in the 2014 coup and later scandals.
“How could you praise such a corrupted man on video?”, commenter Duangjai Phichitamphon asked about his new love affair with the “sweet” Prawit.
“You shouldn’t rush to judgement with (Prawit),” added Facebook user “Porpla Nessy” “You only just met him an hour before.”