By Sophie Brown Less than a month after she was crowned Miss Universe Thailand, pageant winner Weluree “Fai” Ditsayabut has relinquished her title under a barrage of criticism for comments she made online against supporters of the country’s ousted prime minister.
“I felt under pressure. I tried to improve myself but what I could not stand was to see my mother stressed,” an emotional Weluree told reporters in Bangkok Monday.
After the 22-year-old won the competition on May 17, scathing comments predating the contest were found on her Facebook page. They referred to pro-government demonstrators, who are known as “red shirts,” as “dirty” and “evil activists” that should “all be executed.”
“I am not neutral. I am on the side of His Majesty the King,”Weluree said in a now-deleted Facebook comment from November, when the country’s political crisis began, according to local news site Khaosod English.
Weluree reportedly said Thailand would be cleaner if the “dirty” red shirts left the country.
Pro-government supporters questioned Weluree’s pageant victory on popular online forums and social media sites. A Facebook page in protest of her winning the competition garnered thousands of “likes” — although some users criticized her appearance and claimed she won because of her connections, rather than raising concerns about her anti-red shirt comments.
Other netizens seemed to be preoccupied with comparing Weluree’s appearance to that of Nissa Katerahong, who won the Miss Tiffany’s Universe transgender beauty contest in Pattaya last month.
Weluree — an actress, talk show host, and English student — apologized for her remarks on May 19. “I was careless. I was young. I did it recklessly,” she said in an interview on Thailand’s Channel 3.
But the unrelenting public scorn appears to have worn her down.
“At first, my family was happy for me when I was crowned,” Weluree said Monday. “But there’s no more happiness following waves of criticism from the society.” She said the decision was hers alone, and thanked the pageant judges and her fans for their support.
It is unclear whether Weluree’s crown will be passed to the competition’s runner-up and audience favorite Pimbongkod “Ellie” Chankaew.
The pageant controversy emerged at the height of a political crisis that has plagued Thailand for months, and prompted the military to seize power in a coup in May.
The turmoil began in November when the government attempted to pass a controversial amnesty bill that would have cleared the way for the return of then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin, to politics. The former prime minister and tycoon has been living in self-imposed exile to avoid a corruption conviction, after being overthrown in a military coup in 2006.
Since November, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee led anti-government protesters, who were mostly middle-class royalists, in calling for Yingluck’s government to be replaced with an unelected “people’s council.”
Competing rallies were held by pro-government supporters, many of whom came from the country’s rural north and northeast and view Yingluck’s ouster as a “judicial coup.”
Yingluck was found guilty of abuse of power and removed from office along with several cabinet ministers on May 7, and indicted by Thailand’s anti-graft body.
In a televised address on May 22, Thailand’s army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the country had been placed under military control. Since then, the junta has imposed a series of measures purportedly aimed at restoring order and resolving the crisis, including curfews, bans on public assembly, and media blackouts.