Dozens of bra-less Thai women are on a government-backed course of breast slapping to enhance the size of their bust, and their self- esteem. One hundred vied for 40 places on the first course.
The Health Ministry offers the classes as a substitute for silicone implant surgery, increasingly common among slender Thais. The government seems to consider the beauty of Thai women a vital natural resource to be better developed.
The routines were supplied by a Bangkok beautician, Khemmikka Na Songkhla , who has been pursuing a patent for her grandmother's secret fat-kneading technique. Unlikely as it seems, the idea is to shift one's unsightly bulges to more strategic areas up front.
When Ms Khemmikka was an adolescent, her granny mocked her for wasting time rubbing her nipples with a miracle cream in hopes of sprouting big breasts. She said she should rub the old-fashioned way, until it hurt. By repeatedly pushing any flab from her sides and midriff towards her chest, and afterwards dousing Ms Khemmikka's breasts with ice water, her granny boosted her breast size by 4in (10cm) and her confidence soared.
Ms Khemmikka, now 35, says her shapely breasts are all the advertisement she needs and has marketed the technique in her beauty parlour for 15 years. Six sessions cost $380 (£235), and yield an increase of up to 4in without injections, chemicals or implants.
But the lucrative business threatened to go bust after a client developed breast cancer and blamed it on her breast massage. Distraught, Ms Khemmikka asked the Health Ministry to learn if there could be a link with breast massage.
Dr Pennappa Sapcharoen, the deputy director of the traditional medicine division, told her no clinical trials had been done, but she was intrigued by the technique. The ministry launched a six -month study on volunteers aged 20 to 60, and found vigorous massage left their breasts cancer-free and measurably bigger.
Ms Khemmikka helped the Institute of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine to come up with its three-month regimen of self-massage and daily breast-boosting exercises. Dr Pennapa also insists that skinny girls must eat more if they expect to increase the size of their mammaries.