MISS UNIVERSE Thailand Maria Poonlertparp yesterday visited Government House to meet Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha after finishing in the final five in the Miss Universe 2017 contest late last month.
As a gift for the Thai beauty pageant winner, Prayut offered her a job with the government spokesperson team to promote tourism.
As an ambassador of goodwill, Maria immediately accepted the offer. “I wish to promote Thainess for the international community to see and understand,” she said, flashing a smile.
Prayut also said Maria, who is of mixed Thai and Swedish derivation, could set an example of a Thai person speaking English with a “sophisticated accent”.
“We’re fixing the Thai education system to make Thai people speak English with a good accent,” he said.
Maria’s trip to Government House with her mother was one of her earliest agenda items since returning to Thailand on Sunday night from a one-week break after the competition in Las Vegas. Although not claiming the crown, the 25-year-old achieved the best showing for Thailand since Porntip Nakhirunkanok Simon, who won the Miss Universe contest in 1988.
Maria is no stranger to the spotlight, as the 1.8-metre-tall model began her career when she was 13, has recorded singles and performed some acting roles. She also holds a master’s degree in marketing from the Stockholm Business School in Sweden.
She not only won the hearts of Thai people but also triggered a debate about the term “social movement”, which she was asked about during Miss Universe’s question-and-answer session.
On stage, she stumbled in her answer, confusing demographic shifts in society with social advocacy, which drew criticism from some commentators. Off stage, however, she continues her advocacy against teenage pregnancy and yesterday gave promotional materials to Prayut.
The premier also displayed his particular brand of humour as he met the model, who was said to be “very glad, excited and honoured” to meet him in person.
“No matter what rank you gained, what’s done is done. Thai people support you,” Prayut said. “In my opinion, Maria is certainly more beautiful and taller than them but a bit too skinny. She should work out more.”