BANGKOK — The owner of a record label representing teen luk thung singer Lumyai Hai Thongkam, said criticism of her dancing by the prime minister shows he is out of touch.
Prachakchai Navarat, owner of Hai Thongkam Records said the sexual dance moves criticized recently by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha as inappropriate and not Thai, were not new in any sense.
“I want to ask, is Lumyai really destroying society? This kind of thing has been happening way before she was famous, in lum sing, coyote, Korean and American dancing,” Prachakchai said. “Please don’t think of this as something inappropriate.”
Prachakchai did say the 18-year-old singer would from henceforth perform only three of the nine “twerks” in her signature “Nine Floors” move the junta leader found objectionable. The move involves Lumyai assuming a bridge pose on the ground and twerking upward nine times while making Thai dance hand motions.
The freaky moves fracas erupted after Prayuth raised Lumyai’s dancing three times in sessions at the Government House: Friday, Monday and again today.
“I understand that in a business sense, you have to find new things to sell. But you also have to look at whether it’s appropriate. Shouldn’t we retain Thainess? And to those who say that this kind of dancing has been around for long, don’t you want to improve society at all?” he said. “Just because farangs are doing it doesn’t mean we have to.”
“The way she dances, she’s about to show all her genitals already. I don’t want to talk about it, people will say I’m crazy. But I want everyone to help solve this problem,” said Prayuth when he first brought up Lumyai.
It’s not the first time the 63-year-old retired general has been concerned about displays of female sexuality. He famously said attractive foreign women who wore bikinis in Thailand risked rape in 2014 after a British man and woman were murdered on Koh Tao. Last year, he compared young women to “unwrapped candy.”
On Monday, Prayuth escalated his complaints, saying the media should “warn society” against viewing similar sexually charged video clips.
Almost lost in the debate was Lumyai herself. On Sunday, she said she was distressed at hearing the criticism.
“Sometimes I wear a jean jacket to dance, and the organizer will say that I don’t look like Lumyai if I cover up too much. I have to dress sexy, or people will forget me,” she said. “I’m ready to improve myself, but I want you to see that it’s also about work too.”
Her manager, Thanassorn Phutinan, said Saturday that toning Lumyai down to PG levels just wasn’t economically feasible.
“We don’t mean to have her dress to revealingly, but sometimes the organizer who hired us will threaten to pay only half if she doesn’t change clothes,” Thanassorn said. He said people want to see the Lumyai they’re familiar with, in either a glittering gold bikini or hot pants.
Reactions otherwise split down the usual cultural warfare fronts.
Former Khon Kaen Senator Rabeabrat Phongpanich, who heads the Society to Create Happy and Warm Families and famously criticized promotional models known as pretties in 2012, described it as cultural “trash.”
“The studio makes songs explicitly about sex in order to reap benefits. It’s not something that an upcountry girl can just make herself do. Every side should stop creating trash in society.”
Lumyai in her gold bikini outfit singing “Phu Sao Kha Lor” at a concert in Sisaket concert.
Another country singer who rocketed to stardom and infamy in 2011 for her sexually suggestive “Kan Hoo” (“Itchy Ear”) performances, offered her support.
“Most mor lam singers have to dress like this anyway, but we only get criticized when we get famous.” said Nongphanee “Jah Rsiam” Mahadthai. “If you wanna know how we got famous, just look at what Thai people are interested in. They would say I have to dress sexy whenever I was on stage to sing ‘Kan Hoo.’”
Lumyai, whose real name is Supansa Wetkama, grew up poor. She immigrated with her family from Roi Et to Bangkok, where she helped her grandma sell candy as a child. She started singing at nine when she was in fourth grade. She got into the Salaya Performing Arts school after sixth grade and started working as a luk thung singer to support her family before she was discovered by Prachakchai.
Her most famous song, “Phu Sao Kha Lor,” (“Party Girl”) was released in November and was watched more than 200 million times in three months, rocketing her to luk thung stardom. She’s recognizable for her “Nine Floors” Bridge pose, glittering bikini outfits and braces.