Myanmar's Miss Universe contestant Moe Set Wine says she's proud to be part of the changes sweeping her country.
Miss Universe Myanmar Moe Set Wine, left, greets Miss Universe Thailand Chalita Yaemwannang, right, at CentralWorld shopping complex during her visit to Thailand. PATIPAT JANTHONG
Moe Set Wine is the first woman to represent Myanmar in the Miss Universe contest in more than 50 years.
The contest will be held in Moscow next month.
"I feel happy and honoured. I believe this is a chance in a lifetime," she said in Bangkok yesterday.
"I will not take it for granted and I will do my best so that when I look back I will feel I have done something for my country," she said.
The 25-year-old contestant, who was educated in the United States, is in Thailand for two days to attend a training course with Miss Universe Thailand in preparation for the international stage.
Moe Set Wine said people in her country were excited about the beauty contest because they believe it's a way to let the world know about Myanmar people and culture.
She admitted many were worried about the contestants wearing swimsuits as part of the pageant. Contest organiser decided no bikinis would be allowed during an earlier segment of the contest held this month.
Myanmar, after all, remains a conservative country, she said.
"But the audience were happy with the way we performed and people accept it more and more," she said.
She said Myanmar and Thailand are sister countries with ties stretching back more than 65 years.
"The biggest difference is our culture. Myanmar has come under many outside influences and we have just started to open up.
"So we still have traditional living and culture dating back to the old days," she said.
Myanmar, ruled for decades by a military junta until elections were held in 2011, last fielded a Miss Universe contender in 1961.
The present Miss Universe contestant admitted her country is still struggling with many problems and conflicts.
However, many of these problems can be found anywhere, not just in Myanmar, she said.
Because of these challenges, Myanmar will have to keep striving to find solutions.
"Myanmar has changed a lot. We have political changes. We have started to become a democratic country.
"There are many new businesses, opportunities and foreigners coming in and because of that the economy has improved," she said.
She said Myanmar's opposition leader and Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is a role model and inspiration for Myanmar women.
"She inspires many of us. I think of her as a very, strong person," she said.
Moe Set Wine denied rumours that she is dating the grandson of former junta leader Than Shwe.
A photo of her and the general's grandson has been widely circulated online. She said the photo was taken at the opening ceremony of an event and she was there simply to promote it.
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- Writer: Lamphai Intathep