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Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Web sex clip halts Vietnam TV show
By Nga Pham
BBC Vietnamese Service

Vietnam has been hit by hurricanes, floods and a catastrophic bridge collapse of late, but the nation is abuzz with talk of just one thing - a blurry video of an encounter between two teenagers.

Hoang Thuy Linh on Vietnam Television
Thuy Linh (R) was popular with children and parents

Internet forums are swamped with messages about an online sex video apparently showing 19-year-old Hoang Thuy Linh, the star of the popular TV series Vang Anh's Diaries, and her boyfriend.

"This is the most scandalous and controversial thing that has ever happened in Vietnam's virtual world," says journalist Hung Nguyen.

A couple of days after the so-called Vang Anh scandal broke, Vietnam Television (VTV) dropped the series.

A five-minute clip, filmed by mobile phone, was originally posted on YouTube by an anonymous user.

It has since been removed, but copies of it - including a 20-minute long version - are being circulated on other websites.

Parental approval

Thuy Linh, despite playing a schoolgirl in the series, is actually a first-year college student.

Even in a conservative county like Vietnam, it is not unusual for teenagers to engage in sexual relationships.

This poses a big question about modern life that the mainstream newspapers need to answer
Tran Le Thuy and Huy Duc
Vietnamese journalists

The problem is that Vang Anh's Diaries is hugely popular.

The series, which focuses on the daily life of Vietnamese school students, was in its second season when the scandal broke - and Thuy Linh's character, Vang Anh, had become a kind of idol among youngsters.

Before this, Vietnamese parents had approved of the programme. They considered it educational as the children featured were not only talented and beautiful, but also doing very well at school.

"All my friends and myself watch Vang Anh's Diaries regularly," says 13-year-old Thu Thuy.

"I especially love Vang Anh. She's smart, she's pretty, she's so so cool. I love her style."

Thuy admitted she was shocked to be told by her parents that she is no longer allowed to watch Vang Anh.

"My mum said Vang Anh had been a very bad girl. But she didn't explain why."

Ratings winner

Despite unprecedented attention from the public, state media soon went cold on the story after some critics branded the topic "sensational" and "cheap".

But the frenzy continues on the internet.

Blogs and forums are flooded with millions of messages discussing whether Thuy Linh deserves sympathy or punishment, and whether she needs to apologise publicly to her fans.

"The topic cannot be spared only for tabloids to cover," wrote journalists Tran Le Thuy and Huy Duc in Sai Gon Tiep Thi.

"This poses a big question about modern life that the mainstream newspapers need to answer...

"That is the question about information control in terms of blogging [and] privacy protection. That is also the question about the sexual revolution among the young people in Vietnam nowadays."

While the term "sexual revolution" remains somewhat controversial - it is an editorial minefield for the Vietnamese press - the mention of it can work wonders for TV programmes.

The VTV show in which the closure of Vang Anh's Diaries was announced, with Thuy Linh tearfully apologising to her parents and begging for understanding from her fans, attracted a phenomenal number of viewers.

Should the show have been axed? What is your reaction to this story? This form has now been closed. Read a selection of comments below.

The real story here is how bloggers have broken through the government's tight media screen to get their opinions out to the rest of the country.
Aviva West, Hanoi, Vietnam

Whats wrong!!!!! We see suicide bombers killing hundreds of people on TV, insugents killing and mainming hostages and yet a bit of two people enjoying themselves and we are in fear of society.
Jenny Howard, Seoul, S.Korea

I've seen that video You shouldn't show to others. The girl and the boy does what has to be done at that age. That's it! There is nothing to do with TV show and others on the globe. It's their personal. Let's keep it so. And "show must go on!"
Raitis, Latvia

The show should not have been cut. Actors and actresses are people and they have their own lives. They should not have be treated any different, and people should not expect a moral example from them.
Conúil, Belfast, Ireland

I feel very sorry for this young lady Hoang Thuy Linh whose name is now in the news. Its one of those things girl, if you really want to be famous, then be ready to contain everything scandal. All the same, life must go on.Cheer up girl.
Nana Ama Owusuaa Osei-Tutu, Accra ,Ghana

This is just pathetic- the same story as with Paris Hilton. It only increases popularity - and anyway - she had sex wow! She's 19 what do you expect? Even as conservative a country's society as Vienam's couldn't possibly so naive as to believe that is something new and scandalous - shocking really - wake up and say hello to the 21st century...
Macduck, United Kingdom

To avoid this kind of bad things, parents have to discuss with children about some of the dangerous of child sex. In Asian countries, parents are shy to talk about sex with children. Like Europe countries, sex education should be must for this generation students. Because of there are many media's spoiling this generation children. To overcome from these, we have to show the correct way to children. There should be some severe punishment to people who are misusing the internet.
Murugan, Chennai

It's very hard as a Westerner to say yes or no to this - our cultural values are so different, and who are we to push ours onto others? But in my personal opinion, the answer is no, it shouldn't have been axed. Permitting herself to be filmed wasn't the wisest choice Thuy Linh could have made but at the end of the day, it's just sex.
Sophie, Ireland

So this poor teenage actress had a perfectly normal, healthy, act between herself and her boyfriend caught by some scumbag with a mobile phone and she's the villain of the piece? Completely unbelievable. The poor girl deserves sympathy. The twisted individual who took - and then shared - the illicit video is the villain of this piece. I hope he, and all those who have subsequently propagated the clip, is tracked down and punished appropriately.
Disgruntled, Frankfurt, Germany

What this teenage girl does in her private life is her own business. Parents should not try to save children from reality and disappointment, it will happen all thier lives.
Saad Rajput, Canada

This is typical of repressive societies. The first thing they try to control is your sex life. If you permit them to tell you when, how and with whom to have sex, controlling everything else is easy. This is why religions and other despotic regimes are anti-sex. The world will be better off when we are rid of both.
James Smith, João Pessoa, Brazil

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