BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Pirinya Kiatbusaba, a 19-year-old transvestite kickboxer, had his long-wished-for sex change operation.

``I am so happy. Unlike before, I can say with confidence that I am a woman,'' Pirinya said Wednesday.

He had surgery more than 10 days ago after his parents signed consent papers. The flamboyant fighter became an international celebrity in early 1997 when took up the sport.

The welterweight was known for wearing lipstick and mascara in the ring, but fought with a much-admired classical style, easily winning his first few fights in the capital. He then fought twice in Japan.

He began losing bouts last year, and his enthusiasm for the sport waned. He said he wanted to become an entertainer.

Now, Pirinya won't be allowed to fight men _ just women, or give demonstration fights at fairs.

Pirinya has recently accepted modeling jobs, including wearing a bridal gown for a wedding show. His sister, Chalermsri Chareonpol, said nothing has changed her feelings for her sibling.

``I always feel that he is my sister. There is no difference, but he is more beautiful every day,'' she said.