By Ornvipa Rumroy
Citizens expressed outrage when it emerged that actress Lee Yeol-eum had dived to the bottom of a pond in a national park and scooped up three giant clams, an endangered species, which were then cooked on the show.
Giant clams are protected by the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act and cannot legally be hunted or traded.
Violators can be jailed for up to four years and/or fined up to Bt40,000.
The TV show’s producer, SBS Broadcasting, issued a statement on Friday expressing deep regret for disrespecting park regulations and vowing to be more careful in the future.
But Narong Kong-iad, chief of Hat Chao Mai National Park, said the producer was well informed of the regulations.
“Sea resources in Hat Chao Mai cannot be caught, hunted or cooked, and the cast was fully aware of that because the officer thoroughly informed them of the restrictions before filming,” Narong said.
Jatuporn Buruspat, director of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said the National Parks Department had already filed a formal complaint.
“This was clearly an illegal action because the giant clam is identified in the appendix to the CITES agreement protecting wildlife internationally,” Jatuporn said.
“The authorities previously complained about a food show on which an eagle ray was cooked, even though the marine animal is not yet listed as an endangered species. There is no excuse, since they have to do their research before filming begins.”
Nariaroj Fuanggrabil, head of the film board that give the Koreans permission to shoot in the park, posted a photo of the document on Facebook.
It forbids any depiction of hunting on the show and bars the cast and crew from areas under National Parks control. The producer, Nariaroj wrote, was fully aware of regulations.
The crew allegedly sneaked into a prohibited area as well.
A forest ranger assigned to monitor their activities on Koh Mook within the park said a storm prevented them from filming one day so they called for a boat to take them back to their hotel.
But with their minders from a film coordinating company involved, known as the 6th Element, out of sight, the crew slipped into the area where they seized the giant clams.
The authorities only discovered this transgression when it was aired as part of the show, said Nariaroj.
The producer has been blacklisted from further filming in Thailand, while the 6th Element was let off with a warning.