The highly blunt-speaking Thai Prime Minister advised his country’s young women this week not to dress too revealingly, otherwise they will be shunned like a piece of toffee without its wrapper.
PM Prayuth Chan-ocha offered the observation to reporters as his countrymen prepared to kick off Songkran, their traditional New Year celebration.
The holiday comes at the peak of summer heatwaves and is best known for the enthusiastic splashing of water upon friends and strangers alike – a practice that often takes on a heavy sexual edge.
Thailand’s military government already has announced that it would try to discourage lewd behavior – in past years numerous molestations have taken place against women during the celebration.
The Prime Minister said in his speech: “I ask that women wear proper clothes, Thai style, so they would look good and civilised.”
He added that “women are like toffee or candy – which people would not like to eat if already unwrapped.”
Prayuth also said that “some nicely wrapped candy will stay on the shelf for years no matter what.”
The announcement came on the heels of two young British tourists and a girlfriend being murdered and raped on the beach resort island of Koh Tao. Prayuth wondered aloud if the tourists wearing bikinis were in fact courting danger upon themselves.
The Prime Minister said in a September 2014 statement: “This has always been a problem … they think our country is beautiful and safe and they can do whatever they want, wear bikinis wherever they like. I’m asking if they wear bikinis in Thailand, will they be safe? Only if they are not beautiful.”
The statement was in light of the murders of foreigners David Miller and Hannah Witheridge. Prayuth apologized shortly after, saying he only mean to warn tourist to be careful.
Prayuth’s latest remarks drew criticism from Usa Lertsrisantat, director of the Foundation for Women, who said he should use his influential position to speak in a more helpful way.
“He should be sending a message to people who do not respect women’s rights as well,” she said. “He warns women not to wear revealing clothes, and he should warn men to respect women’s rights, too. Women are not toffees or candies, we are human beings.”
“When something bad happens, you can’t just say that it happened because of how women dress,” she said.