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Southeast Asia, explained

"A Thai-blooded girl wins the election"

Thai press cheers on Bangkok-born, congresswoman-elect Tammy "Ladda" Duckworth
Tammy duckworth 2012 09 04Enlarge
Tammy Duckworth (Wikimedia commons)

"A Thai-blooded girl wins the election to the U.S. Senate."

That's the headline running today in Thailand's largest newspaper, Thai Rath. This outlet and others are giving the U.S. House of Representatives-race victory of Bangkok-born Tammy "Ladda" Duckworth near-equal billing to the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Describing Duckworth as a "girl" is a little off.

Perhaps "certified bad ass" is a better fit. As a U.S. Army helicopter pilot deployed to Iraq in 2004, Duckworth's legs were largely destroyed when an insurgent fired an RPG at the underside of her Black Hawk. "I found out later the pedals were gone, and so were my legs,” she told the publication Stars and Stripes, adding that "I’m not about to let some guy who got lucky with an RPG decide how to live my life.”

Duckworth was born in Bangkok to an American father, a marine, and a Thai mother. She'll be sworn in as an Illinois district U.S. House representative in January.

Most of the Thai-language headlines, like this one in Matichon, play up the fact that Duckworth, once sworn in, will be the first U.S. House rep with Thai blood. She recently explained to Thai supporters (in Thai) that she was heartened by their campaign donations and that she'd use the money prudently "because running for office in the states means you need a really big budget," the outlet Pracharat reports.

In the end, Duckworth, a Democrat, racked up far more campaign donations than her Republican opponent, who accused her of relying too heavily on her "personal narrative as a war hero instead of her ideas for office," according to the Chicago Tribune.