Social media star under fire for cozying up to coup-leader; alleged to have embezzled donations

Sean Buranahiran, a Thai social media influencer and life coach, was heavily criticized last week for calling deputy minister Prawit “kind of sweet” in a clip on his channel.

Prawit is one of the masterminds behind the 2014 coup and a key leader of the current military-aligned government. (Read more here)

The social media star is now being accused of misspending his 800,000 donations for the Chiang Mai Wildfire Project.

Flirting with the military

Buranahiran, a 29 year-old Thai-American with three million followers on his social media channels, calls himself a life coach, speaker, author, and content creator in Thailand.

The social media star came under fire last Tuesday after his page released a clip called “I got to plant trees with Gen. Prawit”.

In the clip, Buranahiran could be seen participating in the Climate Festival in Chiangmai with the deputy minister, later complimenting him as actually “kind of sweet” and telling the audience to “not believe in everything they hear and see in the media”.

“Don’t judge a person until you actually meet them, talk to them and connect with them,” he said of the embattled deputy minister.

Fans and netizens immediately took to his channels to criticize Buranahiran for supporting a politician who has been embroiled in numerous scandals and corruption allegations over the span of his tenure.

Fundraising questions

Some of his critics have also raised questions over a fundraiser that Buranahiran held which raised more than 875,000 baht to fight the bushfires in Chiang Mai. Critics say he embezzled the money.

The social media star posted details of his donations and spending, from March 30 to May 1, 2020, on Saturday as a response to the allegations, but that has only prompted more investigations into the matter.

Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution and political activist, accused Buranahiran of misspending 254,516.53 baht of the 875,741.53 donation, and called for an investigation in the matter

Srisuwan had already petitioned the Department of Provincial Administration to investigate the legitimacy of the project and whether or not it was conducted lawfully.

According to the 1944 Collection Act, the project must be approved by the chief of Chiang Mai’s Muang district office, the charity must issue receipts to every donor and not use the money for any other purposes, said Mr. Srisuwan.

Buranahiran replied in a Facebook post on Saturday by saying that the 254,516.53 baht was spent on the production of the media and hiring a media team to produce clips to raise awareness about the bushfires in Chiang Mai.

A Chiang Mai district office has since said that Buranahiran had not received permission to hold a charity in accordance with the 1944 act.

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