Miss Universe Thailand quits after political furor

By Anusak Konglang, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 10 2014 05:18 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2014 01:18 AM

Miss Universe Thailand Weluree Ditsayabut speaks during a news conference at Renaissance Hotel in Bangkok. Photo by Reuters stringer

BANGKOK -- Thailand's contender for the Miss Universe beauty pageant has relinquished her crown after she allegedly called for supporters of the ousted government to be "executed," sparking a social media furor.

A tearful Weluree Ditsayabut, 22, said she was giving up the chance to represent her country after a barrage of online criticism upset her family.

She was accused of calling for "the execution" of the "damn Reds" -- a reference to the "Red Shirt" followers of former premier Yingluck Shinawatra and her family, which has won every Thai election since 2001.

"The land of Thailand is dirty because of people who want to get rid of the monarchy," she was quoted as writing.

The remarks, made on her Facebook page late last year, have since been removed.

At the time protesters were massing on Bangkok's streets calling for the resignation of Yingluck, in a political crisis that culminated in a coup carried out by Army Chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha on May 22.

Thailand has been torn apart by a bitter division since Yingluck's elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire tycoon-turned-populist politician, was ousted in an earlier army takeover in 2006.

Political opinions of any kind can be highly inflammatory to the other side.

Angry backlash

Facebook and Twitter users took aim at Weluree's physical appearance in a campaign seemingly waged in reaction to her posts about government supporters.

"She's a walking beer barrel," according to one comment on a dedicated anti-Weluree Facebook page.

"She is unsuitable for the title because of her figure, face and manners," said another comment.

Weluree, who is also a prominent actress, announced Monday that the backlash had proved too much.

"The comments that I have received were quite severe," the pageant queen -- better known as Nong Fai -- said at a news conference Monday, where she appeared without her tiara or beauty pageant sash.

"I said sorry... I understand that I am a public figure but when I see my mother is unhappy, as a daughter I cannot be happy either. So, today I have decided to step down as Miss Universe Thailand."

Dismayed organizers did not immediately say who would inherit her title and represent Thailand at Miss Universe later this year.

"In the future we will have to carefully screen the behavior of contestants as well as check their social media," said Pranome Thavaravej, from Miss Universe Thailand.

Thailand's rupture roughly pits the Shinawatra-supporting northern portion of the country against the Bangkok-based establishment and its backers within the military.

The army chief has extolled the need to restore "peace and order" after nearly seven months of protests, which saw 28 people killed and hundreds more wounded in political violence.

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WATCH the 66th Miss Universe pageant on November 27, 8 am (Manila time) on ABS-CBN's Channel 2