Lunlabelle's death spurs anti-booze drive

Lunlabelle's death spurs anti-booze drive

A promotional model speaks about dangerous drinking habits and the harassment that models faced when they were hired to promote alcoholic drinks. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
A promotional model speaks about dangerous drinking habits and the harassment that models faced when they were hired to promote alcoholic drinks. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

A group of anti-alcohol activists on Wednesday urged the government to improve working conditions for promotional models, or "pretties", in the wake of the tragic death of popular model Thitima "Lunlabelle" Noraphanpiphat.

At an event held to mark the death of Lunlabelle, Naiyana Suphapueng, director of the Teeranat Foundation, which works to promote human rights and gender equality, said women who work in the service industry face many forms of abuse and harassment by customers and employers, including unwelcome sexual advances.

"In many cases, they are also pressured to drink excessive amounts of alcohol to please customers," she said.

Ms Naiyana said Thais tend to look down on female service workers who work in bars and nightclubs.

Many people think these women knowingly put themselves at risk or in situations in which men could treat them badly.

"We need to get rid of this kind of attitude. Female service workers deserve to be afforded the same dignity and respect as any other women," she said.

Ms Naiyana said there should be laws, a labour union and a campaign to protect the many thousands of women currently working in this profession from being exploited and abused.

"Policymakers at the top must consider the problems at ground level and deliver measures to provide a better working environment where female service workers can work without risk to their health and safety," she said.

Speaking at the event, "A", a former service worker who requested anonymity, said she and her friends had experienced sexual harassment many times while they were working as beer pretties.

"It's not easy to avoid this kind of incident because most customers in bars are under the influence of alcohol and forget themselves.

"Once I was groped by men who looked drunk. I felt disgusted and wanted to leave but I couldn't because I didn't want to cause a problem for my employers or lose my job," she said.

"A" said most service workers choose not to seek help out of fear of being stigmatised and because they are ashamed.

"When women who work at night get harassed, we are not treated with the same empathy as other female victims.

"I want to say that we are also just ordinary people who are trying to make a living, so people should treat us with respect, the same as they do with people in other professions," she said.

Pongsatorn Chartpitak, deputy director of the Office of the Alcoholic Beverage Control, said his agency had reports of bars and nightclubs using promotions such as beer drinking competitions and beer buffets to encourage customers to drink more.

"This is a worrying trend and it's against the law. Business operators should know what's right and wrong. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.

"We need to raise awareness about the danger of drinking large amounts of alcohol in short periods of time," he said.

Male model Rachadech "Nam Oun" Wongthabutr was arrested after Lunlabelle was found dead on a sofa in the lobby of the condominium where he lives on Tuesday last week. Results of an autopsy indicate Lunlabelle died of alcohol poisoning.

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