Saturday, November 08, 2008

Elephants fight, ants get squashed

Thai Takes

WHAT would you do if your beautiful dream got squashed in a battle between two political elephants?

If you were Kangsadan Wongdu­sadeekul, a 21-year-old transvestite beauty queen, you would respond like the perfect woman.

This year Kangsadan was supposed to represent her country in Miss International Queen 2008 (Thailand’s international transvestite beauty pageant) after she was crowned Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2008 (the most sought after beauty pageant title for Thai transvestites) in May.

However, the on-going battle between the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the People’s Power Party-led coalition government has indirectly trampled on her dream to compete against aspiring transvestites around the world including Malaysia – echoing the Thai proverb which says, “In a battle between elephants, the ants get squashed”.

Miss International Queen 2008, which was due to be held in October and then deferred to November, has been cancelled (or in PR-speak postponed to 2009) as the political turmoil in Bangkok takes its toll on tourist arrivals.

Nevertheless, Kangsadan (and the future Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2009) will be competing in the Miss International Queen 2008/2009 pageant that is scheduled for early October next year.

How did Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2008 react to the postponement?

“She took it like a woman. Like all women she is not satisfied with herself, as she wants to be perfect when she competes,” said a translator while the teary-eyed katoey (Thai for transvestite) checked out her eye shadow on a vanity mirror inside her Prada purse.

“She feels the postponement will be an advantage, as it will give her time to improve her English, looks and outfit.”

Looking pretty, Kangsadan nodded her head when the translator said: “She’s happy the pageant has been postponed.”

The translator, however, quickly added: “But don’t tell that to Alisa.”

At the next table was Alisa Phanthusak, whose family owns the world-famous Tiffany show, a katoey cabaret show in Pattaya, a beach resort about 110km southeast of Bangkok.

Earlier, Alisa, the organiser of Miss Tiffany’s Universe and Miss International Queen, admitted feeling “terrible” that the international pageant had to be “postponed”.

“But we had to take this painful decision because international tourist arrivals dropped after the government declared emergency rule (on Sept 2, after a Thai was killed when anti and pro-government groups clashed on the streets of Bangkok) and several countries advised their citizens not to travel to Thailand,” she explained.

At first the organiser postponed Miss International Queen 2008 to late November this year thinking the political struggle between the PAD and the government in the Thai capital would end by then.

But after two PAD supporters were killed and nearly 500 injured when the anti-government demonstrators clashed with the police outside parliament in Bangkok on Oct 7, Alisa realised the political instability would continue even through Thailand’s high tourism season (October to March).

To paraphrase the Thai proverb, in a battle between political elephants, Thailand’s tourism industry (not exactly an ant as it contributes 14% to the country’s GDP) gets squashed.

Take the example of the Tiffany Show. The audience for Pattaya’s must-see transvestite cabaret show (usually attracting 2,000 guests a day) has dropped by 50%.

“This is the greatest crisis for tourism in Pattaya since I’ve been in the business for the past 10 years,” the 34-year-old businesswoman said, adding that the downturn was unfair as Pattaya was a long way from the epicentre of the political turmoil in Bangkok.

How about sending her international katoeys (since the transvestites – who Alisa described as “risk takers” and “more optimistic than the average tourist” – were dying to strut their stuff at the pageant) to the warring political groups with the message to “make love, not war”?

“One of my sponsors suggested organising a Miss International Queen rally in front of Bangkok’s Government House (which the PAD is illegally occupying) as a PR gimmick,” she related.

“He wanted to have fun with the current political situation and to have a peace (in Thai politics) theme for this year’s pageant.”

But Alisa, who was a member of the now-defunct National Legislative Assembly which was set up after the 2006 coup, is not about to risk her girls.

(Published by The Star on November 8, 2008. Photograph of Kangsadan courtesy of PITON Communications Co)


Ivana said...

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