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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 23:43 GMT 00:43 UK
Thai beauty contest causes stir
Miss Jumbo 2003 contestants
Beauty contests of all kinds are popular in Thailand

Organisers of a children's beauty pageant in Thailand have agreed to drop part of the contest, following complaints that it exploits children.

The pageant manager agreed to drop the "sexy body" and "swimsuit" categories of the Miss and Mister International Kids contests, which were scheduled for next Sunday.

Organiser Songwut Khumarak said the "sexy body" category was only meant to boost the self-confidence of the children, some of whom were as young as three-years-old.

But children's rights activists condemned the contest, saying that it reinforced Thailand's image as a haven for paedophiles.

"We overlooked the fact that people might think the categories were offensive or negative," Mr Songwut told the Associated Press.

Campaigners angered

Mr Songwut said that he had only chosen the title of the "sexy body" category because it "sounded fun".

There is no reason why children need to think about sexiness or try to be sexy, it is ridiculous
Wallop Tungkananurak, Thai senator
But Carmen Madrinan of the campaigning group Ecpat disagreed.

"This is an example of how the adult sexual interest in children is legitimized and has gradually been normalized in society", she said.

And Wallop Tungkananurak, a senator in the Thai Parliament, urged the government to stop the contest altogether.

"There is no reason why children need to think about sexiness or try to be sexy. It is ridiculous. There are many other ways to boost their self-confidence," he told the Associated Press news agency.

More than 60 children are reported to have signed up for the competition, in which they wear the traditional costume of a country of their choice and demonstrate how well they speak Thai and English.

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