Children’s Day YouTube video melts hearts, sparks hot debate on inequality
With Children’s Day last Saturday (Jan 9) mostly limited to online activities due to the Covid-19 outbreak, a YouTuber stole the show with her video about poor kids in a remote mountainous village of Chiang Mai province.
The video, titled “Happy Children’s Day: Pimrypie’s big gift for kids of the mountain”, took viewers along on her trip to Mae Koeb village in Omkoi district, located 300 kilometres from Chiang Mai city.
YouTuber Pimrypie revealed that after discovering there was no electricity in the village and its children were “living without dreams”, she donated Bt500,000 to build a solar power system, and buy a large-screen TV and new shoes for the children, as well as starting up a vegetable garden.
In the video, she pointed to the television and asked the children what it was called. None knew the answer. She asked if any of them had seen one before. The answer was still “no”.
Released on the eve of Children’s Day, the video quickly went viral in social media – and sparked a heated debate about inequality and lack of development in rural Thailand.
As of Sunday (Jan 10), the video was trending No 1 on Thai YouTube with more than 4.1 million views, 467,000 likes and over 37,000 comments. Meanwhile the hashtag #Pimrypie was Thailand’s top Twitter trend, with more than 1 million retweets.
This was not the YouTuber’s first donation to people in need. Pimrypie previously paid Bt300,000 in tuition fees for deprived school students, earning her the nickname “fairy of the poor”.
Comments beneath her latest video were full of praise for her efforts to help poor villagers. Some blamed the government for the inequality exposed by her film, including the lack of basic utilities like electricity. Others criticised Royal development projects begun decades ago with the aim of lifting rural communities out of poverty.
“The government can’t do it, but Pim can,” one viewer wrote in the comments below the video.
“I wonder if the prime minister even knows this village exists in Thailand,” said another comment.
“In short, Thais have to help one another. You can’t rely on the government,” read another.
However, certain claims made in the video raised questions. According to reports, a lighting system was installed in the village two years ago, while solar-powered lighting was donated to 51 of its households last December.
Chiang Mai University social science lecturer Pinkaew Luangaramsri said the YouTuber’s effort was “a feel-good story about middle-class people’s dream of saving grassroots people without knowing anything about the issue of inequality”.
He also noted that anti-establishment netizens were quick to use the video as a weapon to criticise the government and monarchy.
Pimrypie, whose real name is Pimradaporn Benjawattanapat, became popular a few years ago as an online vendor expressing her anger and frustration in live verbal rants.
Her Facebook account, @pimrypie.official, has 6.2 million followers.
Now 30 years old, she claims to have saved Bt100 million by the time she was 25.
Her YouTube channel, which has 2.73 million subscribers, features videos about her makeup tutorials, travels, cooking and food reviews. Many have more than 1 million views, with some exceeding the 3-million mark.
But along with millions of admirers, she also has a good share of haters, who despise her blunt nature and describe her self-reported donations as publicity stunts.
Three weeks ago, she released a music video, “Ya Naka” (Just Don’t), with lyrics hitting back at her critics. It was viewed 25 million times.
A single mother, Pimradaporn has two children from two marriages. She sports tattoos on both arms, including a portrait of her father on her upper left arm.
She also revealed she has had several cosmetic surgeries since the age of 18, claiming that complications from a breast augmentation operation almost killed her.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk