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A relatively unknown MP candidate in Maha Sarakham province suddenly found herself at the center of attention on social media this week – probably not for the reason she wanted.

A Thai Local Power Party spokesman urged the public not to be distracted by photos that have gone viral of Ploypilin Rattanasatian posing partially undressed that he said were taken when she worked as a model.

“Everyone can volunteer to work for their country. Ms. Ploypilin used to be a pretty, which is not against the law,” spokesman Chuenchob Kong-udom told reporters, using a Thai term for promotional models. “Her photos are her private issue, and we cannot stop her from doing that, as long it’s outside work time.”

Chuenchob said Ploypilin’s candidacy was recently approved by the Election Commission, so the party had no reason to withdraw its support.

“I’d like to ask [everyone] to give her the opportunity to work for her country,” he said. “Don’t judge her by her appearance.”

The photos appeared to be taken and posted on several Facebook pages in 2018. Some netizens on Wednesday reshared them – often with sexually crude comments.

“Is this an election or a motor show?” wrote user Vattikorn Sophonrat, referring to annual automobile expos that in the past were associated with hordes of scantily clad pretties.

Domestic Thai-language media – where sensational coverage of anything remotely sexual is a tabloid tradition – also reported the news with equal relish.  “Oh wow, that’s a pair of watermelons!” read a headline on the Naewna news website.

In an interview with online portal Sanook, Ploypilin said she had never run for office but decided to join the fray this year because she agrees with Thai Local Power policies. Ploypilin’s campaign posters promise free education, crackdowns on drugs and promotion of local goods.

“In the eyes of the puu yai, I might be a kid, but believe me, a lot of kids these days have ideas and energy to do something good for society,” Ploypilin said.

Thai Local Power is headed by tycoon Chatchawal Kong-udom. Chatchawal is best known for his status as a godfather-type figure in Bangkok’s Tao Poon neighborhood. It was launched with a LGBT-lit party on Bangkok’s Silom Road and counts a drag queen as its spokesman.

Though it would come as little surprise to anyone in Thailand, the topic of “hotties in politics” has also been trending online in recent weeks.

Former actress Suchada ‘Idea’ Thaensap made similar waves after she joined the Democrat Party, while Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has gained a sort of celebrity among young social media users for his looks.

Even politicians’ offspring aren’t off the radar. Yossuda “Jinnie” Leelapanyalert, a daughter of Pheu Thai premier candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan, has sparked a largely male cult following for her appearances on the campaign trail with her mother.

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