BANGKOK — Pageant queens said “Thainess” could be represented by love for the monarchy, the one-baht coin, and by half-Thais at the final round of questions at Miss Universe Thailand 2020.
Half-Canadian Amanda Obdam was crowned as Miss Universe Thailand 2020 on Saturday night after she said that she would use none other than herself to represent Thainess on the world stage. The first runner up said it’s the Three Pillars of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy, that matter – drawing backlash from progressive netizens.
Finalists were asked the same question: “The picture of Temple of Dawn has always been taken to symbolize Thailand’s spirit and landmark. If you become the new Miss Universe Thailand, in what way will you represent yourself as one of the new iconic [sic] of Thailand?”
Amanda replied in English, “If I were to represent Thailand, honestly I would just show everyone myself. Because I often get critiqued of being half, being half Thai, half Canadian. But what I wanna say here today is, I am Thai.”
“I was born to a Thai mother, I couldn’t have been more Thai. So I wanna show you all of me, all of my Thainess, because I am Thai.”
In response to the same question, first runner-up Praveenar Singh, 24, gave her answer with a strong, conservative bent, praising Thailand’s “Three Pillars.”
“I would display humility, honoring and respect others, as I have been taught growing up, and smiling the Thai Smile. With these four things. Anywhere in the world people will know we are Thai,” Praveenar said. “More than that, it is about being taught to love the Nation, Religions, and Monarchy, which Thais love and protect more than anything.”
Second runner-up Punika “Polfah” Kulsoontornrut, 27, said that she would give out the one-baht coin to promote Thainess.
“For me, Wat Arun. I will give the one-baht coin as a souvenir to everyone in the Miss Universe organization and my fellow pageant mates, because it is the clearest symbol of Thai culture. It will also be an action done by me, a Thai person with real Thai blood, on the Miss Universe stage,” she said.
The coin features the Phra Siratana Chedi of the Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, or Wat Phra Kaew, in the Grand Palace complex.
Netizens criticized the contestants’ answers, as well as its final question for their insular nature.
“As soon as I heard Veena said Thainess is loving nation, religions, and monarchy, I didn’t know what to say. Answering ‘monarchy’ at this time, does she not know what’s going on?” wrote Twitter user @M112m44.
“The question lacks any international viewpoint, is behind in world affairs, doesn’t empower women. It’s hard to wish for a third crown,” said Facebook user Pattarapong Pattarapongdech, referring to how Thailand has won two Miss Universe crowns. “These questions are like, pre-1932.”
Some suggested the old-fashioned question might have been a test to see if the contestants would answer anything progressive or memorable.
“It could have been anything they like and want to present to the world, whether it’s something Thais or foreigners like,” Facebook user Kullaboot Nate Kaewsiri wrote. “The reality is, our country’s pageant queens cannot get past this point, especially if they don’t have ‘pretty’ answers.”
Amanda won a crown worth 4 million baht, a condominium, and a car. She will compete on the world stage at the Miss Universe 2020 pageant.