Autumn Allen, a 13-year-old aspiring singer from Cambodia, was the victim of a Mother’s Day prank on a Cambodian television show that’s drawn international outrage for its treatment of the girl.
Penh Chet Ort (Like It or Not), a talk and variety show, invited Allen onto the show for its Mother’s Day episode, promising her that her “dream to meet her mother would come true,” according to The Phnom Penh Post.
During the broadcast, Allen told the presenters her only memory of her mother, who stayed in the U.S. when her father took her to Cambodia about seven years ago: “She held me and kissed me and told me that she would always love me,” Allen said.
For the big “reveal,” though, the show brought out its judge, cross-dressing comedian Chuop Rolin, instead.
Reaction to the show’s stunt was swift. Cambodian political analyst Ou Virak denounced the show’s producer as “stupid and brainless and heartless,” a sentiment echoed across social-media platforms.
Allen responded to the outrage on Facebook: “Thank you for the enormous show of support regarding the Mother s Day show. I am sure there was no harm intended and I had fun on the show.” She later shared a letter of apology from myTV, the network that airs Penh Chet Ort, and said the network would be making a public apology soon.
Allen said that she has tried to contact her mother several times since moving to Cambodia, but her attempts were unsuccessful. She added that her father believes her mother was living in Scottsdale, Arizona.