Thai women tell the government #DontTellMeHowToDress
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Thai women tell the government #DontTellMeHowToDress

WOMEN across Thailand have joined a social media campaign hitting back at an official who suggested they should avoid dressing “sexy” during the country’s Songkran new year celebrations held over the weekend.

Last month, the Thai Department of Local Administration’s director-general Sutthipong Chulcharoen announced that local authorities would be launching campaigns encouraging women to “dress appropriately” to avoid becoming victims of sexual assault during huge public water fights to celebrate Songkran.

Local actress Cindy Sirinya Bishop, who hosts Asia’s Next Top Model, first posted the hashtags #DontTellMeHowToDress and #TellMenToRespect on her Instagram and Twitter profiles after being outraged by Sutthipong’s comments.

SEE ALSO: Slippery Songkran: Thailand launches road safety campaign for ‘seven deadly days’

“Newsflash! Women dress to feel beautiful and confident and sexy and powerful, to show off our toned bodies and our tans,” she tweeted. “We also dress to be respectful and modest and comfortable when we want to. We dress for ourselves! Whether it’s a bikini or a hijab…”

Thailand’s famous water festival – held during the country’s hottest month – regularly attracts millions of locals and more than half a million foreign tourists but has long been marred by road accidents and in recent years, reports of widespread sexual assault.

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People play with water, during Songkran Water Festival celebrations, to commemorate the Thai New Year in Bangkok, Thailand April 15, 2018. Source: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

A survey recently submitted to the Thai Interior Ministry found that more than half of all women respondents who participated in Songkran in Bangkok said they had been sexually molested by men, many of whom are under the influence of alcohol during the festivities.

The 2016 survey found that 85.9 percent of some 1,793 girls and women aged 10 to 40 said measures should be imposed to better protect their safety at Songkran.

SEE ALSO: Female journalists, male politicians and the epidemic of sexual harassment in Asean

Bishop’s hashtag thus resonated strongly with many women in Thailand and further afield.

“Being half Thai and a survivor of sexual assault I’m so proud that Thai women are standing up against the Thai government’s rape culture with #DontTellMeHowToDress”, wrote one netizen.

“You think it’s MY fault boys can’t control themselves?” tweeted another. “‘Boys will be boys’ my ass. Worry about the boys, and not my shoulders. Thanks.”

“Thank you for helping me spread my message and amplifying my voice on this issue,” said Bishop.