Social Issues

Racially abused over her views, Thai beauty queen hopes to inspire others

By Jackree Bunyamethi

Bangkok, Oct. 1 (efe-epa).- Since the first dark-skinned winner of a major Thai beauty pageant was the target last month of racist comments by pro-government groups following her on stage support for anti-government protesters, the abuse has continued to this day.

Pacharaporn “Nam” Chantarapadit, who won Miss Grand Thailand 2020, was discriminated against for the color of her skin as late as this week, a problem widespread in most Southeast Asian society and a matter about which she recently spoke to EFE.

“To be honest, I don’t hate them. I think it’s all about their attitude, which seems a bit negative and intimidating, because I can’t do anything with my skin. I will listen to all those comments, but I’m trying to stay away from that negative stuff,” Pacharaporn said about those who abuse her.

On Monday, a post on “PDRC Hot News Update” Facebook group, shared a photo comparing Pacharaporn to a young light-skinned female military officer.

The group was created by followers of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee, which espoused a pro-government, pro-monarchy stance and played a key role in the movement that toppled the 2014 government via coup leader-turned-Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha.

“Is there something wrong with Thailand? The beauty queen looks like an African monkey,” user Orachorn Vanajarurochana commented on the picture.

“Is she really a beauty queen? I thought she was a Ngo-Pa barbarian,” user Suwat Suksongkroh wrote, referring to uncivilized people who live in remote areas in the south of Thailand.

“Was this beauty pageant held for halloween?” said Aongat Kijchalao, another pro-government user wrote in the comments.

These stemmed from comments Pacharaporn made Sep. 19, during the question-and-answer round of the contest, during which she supported student-led anti-government protests happening that same day calling for Prayut’s resignation and monarchic reform.

“From my heart, I pick the protesters because we are entitled to express our opinions and we want the best for our country…” she said.

“If you are calling this country Thailand, we need a real democracy. Moreover, we need (the government) to get out of the country,” she continued on in English.

But the 22-year-old said she tries not to take the insults to heart.

“We are in 2020, and I believe beauty consists of many elements. Personally, I am being true to myself, I work very hard and I don’t believe my actions trouble anybody,” she said.

While her political remarks have prompted a lot of abusive comments related to her appearance, the native of Songkhla, a southern province of Thailand, says she has faced various forms of racism throughout her life.

However, she managed to handle the negativity and raised herself to become a beauty pageant contestant, saying she hoped winning the contest could inspire those who share dark skin, or are bullied like her to be more confident and proud of themselves.

“I believe every woman is beautiful, every single woman has her own beauty which shouldn’t be judged only by physical appearance, but also thoughts and attitude, and most importantly (those who possess true beauty) should be inspirational for others,” she said.

In most Southeast Asian countries, darker skin can be associated with farmers, workers, rural poverty, or unpleasant occupations, and most Southeast Asians avoid becoming tanned by wearing long sleeves during the hottest months of the year.

Moreover, the Thai entertainment industry is widely consumed in neighboring countries such as Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, and light-skinned celebrities are more likely to gain popularity rather than those with darker skin.

According to Phrae Chittiphalangsri, a professor of comparative literature at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, the obsession with white skin among Thais comes from three bases: Thai history, the Chinese elite and Korean influence.

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