Social media outrage as Cambodian TV prank backfires
A Mother's Day prank on Cambodian TV has backfired on social media, with the producers accused of cruelty to a teenage girl.
Autumn Allen, a 13-year-old American singer living in Cambodia, had just performed on a local television show last Sunday when she was told that she would be reunited with her mother.
Ms Allen has been living in Phnom Penh with her father since 2008. She last saw her mother, who lives in the US, when she was six.
Wiping away tears, Autumn told the show's hosts that it was her "dream to see her mother again".
"My mother last held and kissed me and told me that she would always love me," she told the audience.
But the promise turned out to be a prank staged by the TV station. Instead of Autumn's mother, a local comedian - dressed in drag - came out pretending to be her.
Though Autumn stayed on stage and joked with the hosts and the fake mother, the prank was met with outrage among Cambodians on social media.
"What they did was cruel. Pranking for the sake of a couple laughs. Distasteful. Despicable," Facebook user Darica Pov said.
"I cannot believe someone would tell such an outrageous lie to a little girl. I'm not sure who in the right mind would find that funny," another user Srey Tong Leng said.
Facebook user Greg Oates remarked: "They showed no respect for Autumn. And that's coming from a culture that respects everything. I guess a moment on TV makes one forget their values for respect."
She said she had met the TV company and accepted their apologies.
"The two hosts, Rolin and Taboi (the producer) have apologized to me personally. Even the Deputy General Manager of the MyTV was there.
"A mistake happen and I have forgiven them. Thank you for every one supports. Please find it in your heart to forgive them too. Love, Autumn."
Ms Allen's fans on Facebook praised her maturity in handling the incident.
Some also expressed hope that she would finally be reunited with her mother one day.
"A 13-year-old has demonstrated even more maturity than the adult producers on this show. What does that say?" a local fan Socheathiya Teng said.
"You are a very strong girl. I believe your mother would be proud of you and she'll find a way to meet you. Good luck," said Halida Kim on Facebook.
Another Facebook user added: "The station should rectify this situation by helping her find her biological mother and reuniting them as they had promised. Not by writing an empty apology letter just to save face."