Gay Thailand News & Reports 2010

1 Mplus produces animations for HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention 1/10

2 Marginalised empowered by learning legal rights 3/10

3 Money-boys in Thailand: sex, work, and stigma 4/10

4 Sex frequency and sex planning among MSM in Bangkok 4/10

5 Inconsistent Condom Use Among Young MSM… 4/10

6 Notes from Bangkok 5/10

7 Report from Gay Writer about Thailand Protests and Violence 5/10

7a Examining HIV infection among male sex workers in Bangkok 8/10

8 After Upheaval, Not All Is Well With Thai Youth 8/10 (non-gay background story)

8a Punitive laws on sex workers and drugs hamper progress 11/10

9 Asia flooded with party, designer drugs 12/10 (non-gay background story)

10 Thailand bans film about transgender ‘father’ 12/10

22 January 2010 – Fridae

Mplus Thailand produces animations for HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention

by Dr Christopher S. Walsh, Nada Chaiyajit & Pad Thepsai
Chiangmai’s Mplus, a community-based men’s sexual health organisation, last year launched four animated videos for the four communities they are trying to reach: young MSM, transgenders, Thai and migrant male sex workers and ‘hidden MSM’.

Responding to an alarming rise in HIV incidence among MSM in Thailand, Mplus, a community-based organisation formed to improve the sexual health of men that have sex with men (MSM), produced animations for their HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention programs. The animations are new educational resources produced to increase understandings of safe sex practices and address low perceptions of personal risk to HIV/AIDS among Chiang Mai’s diverse MSM population.

Mplus works to provide HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention to the diverse community of MSM in Chiang Mai. This includes men who identify as gay or bisexual, transgenders, Thai and migrant male sex workers and “hidden” MSM who can be homosexual, bisexual or straight. Reflecting the community to who they provide outreach, Mplus produced animations to be used as an educational resource in each of the communities identified above. The animations are context specific to needs of Chiang Mai’s MSM community as identified in the research, but Mplus is using them in regional HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention. The animations will expand Mplus’ innovative HIV prevention, where outreach workers take condoms and safe-sex information to places where MSM meet for sex to make their use more acceptable and less stigmatised.

Mplus understands organised responses to HIV/AIDS must begin at the community level and that community engagement is an essential part of HIV/AIDS prevention. To produce the animations, Mplus first researched the sexual practices of young MSM, transgenders, Thai and migrant male sex workers (MSW) to focus on understanding their sexual practices as they are socially produced. Then, using the data generated from the research, they co-authored narratives, drafted storyboards and produced animations making use of powerful context-specific, stories generated through interviews with MSM, MSW and transgenders in their local community.

The animations will help MSM understand the risks associated with various sexual activities and the consequences of unsafe sex for themselves and their partners/spouses. The animations will also attempt to provoke emotional reactions from viewers as they become closely familiar with the thoughts and feelings of characters, some of who became HIV+ in contexts and situations familiar to those of their local community.

Jit Srichandorn, an Mplus outreach worker says: “It is not easy to get our clients to change their behaviour, but the animations offer a screen-based resource with sound and moving images that provokes them to think differently about their risk to HIV. It also gives us a new educational resource to use in our peer- outreach that generates a lot of discussion.”

March 2010 – Bridges Across Boarders Southeast Asia

Marginalised empowered by learning legal rights

“New HIV/AIDS infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) have been increasing significantly in Chiang Mai. The diverse MSM community in Chiang Mai faces increased vulnerability due to stigma, violence and discrimination which could enhance MSM risk of HIV infection. According to the Thailand Department of Disease Control, ‘the city’s MSM do not have as much access to public health services or medication for HIV/AIDS’ as the general population.

BABSEA, in collaboration with our partner organization MPlus+, held a pioneering workshop on legal, sexual and human rights education for Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker community on 4 and 5 February in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The workshop was funded by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR) and brought together participants from MPlus+, The Open University, Violet Home and Rainbow Sky.

BABSEA presented an interactive workshop on a large number of topics ranging from HIV/AIDS and the law and access to health care to sexual violence, discrimination, sexual rights, criminal law and procedure and housing rights.

Participants were thrilled with the use of fun and creative interactive teaching methods in the workshop to provide practical, relevant information. One participant from MPlus+ stated, “I personally face discrimination on a daily basis. I’ve learned a lot about my rights through participating in this workshop. I plan on using this information to educate others in my community about the law and where to go when they need help”.

A follow up workshop to develop a manual in Thai and English on legal, sexual and human rights was held on 10 and 11 February. This manual will form part of the Peer and Outreach Education for Improving the Sexual Health of Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Reference Manual for Peer & Outreach Workers manual. This will provide valuable information to the MSM community about how to access vital free legal counselling services and health care services in the Chiang Mai region.

Mplus+ views the production of the manual as strategic to reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with MSM and HIV/AIDS. It is anticipated that educating people about their rights will lead to improved access to health care and improved sexual health in their communities.

Dr Chris Walsh, a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, believes that initiatives such as these workshops are crucial for Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker community because it, “overcomes barriers that deny them access to resources and participation on social, economic, political and cultural relations”.

BABSEA and MPlus+ anticipate that this will be the first of many initiatives for improving access to education and healthcare in Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker community.

BABSEA would like to thank all the participants involved in these workshops, for all their hard work in making the workshops such a success. We look forward to our continued working partnership with Mplus+ to strengthen further outreach and legal education programs throughout Thailand.

April 2010 – Cab Abstracts Plus

Money-boys in Thailand: sex, work, and stigma

by Mutchler, M. G.

Document Title: Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention in Children & Youth

Thailand is widely applauded for its response to HIV/AIDS. Yet, Thailand has largely ignored the problems of HIV/AIDS among MSM (men having sex with men), despite a flourishing male commercial sex industry. This paper represents the author’s observations on the male sex industry in Bangkok and Chaing Mai, Thailand, during the XV International AIDS Conference (IAC). I found a lack of abstracts presented at the XV IAC on young male sex workers in Thailand. This paper describes how MSW (money-boys) sell sex and suffer from stigma, discusses the public health implications of these insights, and offers some research questions to guide examinations of how MSW in Thailand negotiate sex, condoms, work, and stigma.

14 April 2010 – JIA Society

Sex frequency and sex planning among men who have sex with men in Bangkok, Thailand: implications for pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis against HIV infection

by Frits van Griensven, Warunee Thienkrua, Wichuda Sukwicha, Wipas Wimonsate, Supaporn Chaikummao, Anchalee Varangrat and Philip Mock
Journal of the International AIDS Society 2010, 13:13doi:10.1186/1758-2652-13-13

Abstract (provisional)

Daily HIV anti-retroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is being evaluated in clinical trials among men who have sex with men (MSM). However, daily PrEP may not be congruent with sexual exposure profiles of MSM. Here we investigate sex frequency and sex planning to identify and inform appropriate PrEP strategies for MSM.

We evaluated sex frequency and sex planning in a cohort HIV-negative MSM in Bangkok, Thailand. chi2 test was used to compare reports of sex on different weekdays; logistic regression was used to identify predictors of sex frequency and sex planning.

Of 823 MSM (mean age 28.3 yrs) 86% reported sex on 2 days per week or less and 65% reported their last sex to have been planned. Sex on the weekend (~30%) was more often reported than sex on weekdays (~23%). In multivariate analysis, use of alcohol, erectile dysfunction drugs, group sex, sex with a foreigner, buying and selling sex and a history of HIV testing were associated with having sex on 3 days per week or more; age 22 to 29 years, not identifying as homosexual, receptive anal intercourse and not engaging in group sex were associated with unplanned sex.

Intermittently dosed PrEP (as opposed to daily) may be a feasible HIV prevention strategy and should be considered for evaluation in clinical trials. Predictors of sex frequency and sex planning may help to identify those in need for daily PrEP and those who may not be able to take a timely pre-exposure dose.

April 2010 – ATYPON Link

Inconsistent Condom Use Among Young Men Who Have Sex With Men, Male Sex Workers, and Transgenders in Thailand

Author(s): Tareerat Chemnasiri, Taweesak Netwong, Surasing Visarutratana, Anchalee Varangrat, Andrea Li, Praphan Phanuphak, Rapeepun Jommaroeng,Pasakorn Akarasewi, Frits van Griensven, PhD, MPH

Young men who have sex with men (MSM) are at risk for HIV infection. We investigated inconsistent condom use among 827 sexually active young MSM (15–24 years), enrolled using venue-day-time sampling in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, Thailand. Data was collected using palmtop computer-assisted self-interviewing. Of participants, 33.1% were regular MSM, 37.7% were male sex workers (MSWs) and 29.1% were transgenders (TGs). Of MSM, 46.7%, of MSWs, 34.9% and of TGs, 52.3% reported recent inconsistent condom use.

In multivariate analysis, receptive anal intercourse (MSM, MSWs), receptive and insertive anal intercourse, living alone and a history of sexual coercion (MSWs), not carrying a condom when interviewed (MSM, TGs), lower education, worrying about HIV infection and a history of sexually transmitted infections (TGs) were significantly and independently associated with inconsistent condom use. Interventions for young MSM are needed and must consider the distinct risk factors of MSM, MSWs, and TGs.

19 May 2010 – Fridae

Notes from Bangkok

by Douglas Sanders
Fridae contributor and Bangkok resident Douglas Sanders sends an update about Bangkok’s gay areas as a curfew across Bangkok on Wednesday night has been announced after Thai security forces today stormed the main camp occupied by anti-government protesters in the city’s commercial district – triggering rioting and violence across the capital.

Bangkok, May 19, 2010. Early afternoon.
As many know, there are two areas of gay bars in the main shopping and host-bar area of Bangkok, involving parts of Silom and Suriwong Roads, and the famous Soi Patpong. The fighting between the government forces and the Red Shirts is intense at the moment in Bangkok. It has not resulted in any violence in the gay bar areas.

On Thursday, May 13, around 8 pm, a grenade was launched that hit the Saladang Skytrain station on Silom road. Apparently it came from behind the Red Shirts Barricade that blocked the road leading north from the Rama IV / Silom intersection (where the well known Dusit Thank Hotel is located, as well as the main entrance to Lumpini Park). Nearby is Silom Soi 4, the small side street that has some of the best known gay bars and restaurants – Telephone, Balcony, Sphinx. The gay venues were told by the military to close after the grenade attack on Saladang station and Silom Road was blocked off to prevent Red Shirts moving south into the Silom business area. The night markets on Silom Road and Patpoing Soi were deserted.

After Soi 4 was closed, I walked over to Suriwong Road, which runs parallel to Silom. The main gay bar area there is on a small soi (side street) often called Soi Twilight (though the pioneer Twilight bar is long gone). The bars and restaurants were functioning, though the numbers of tourists, both Asians and non-Asians were pretty limited. The manager in Dick’s Cafe was watching television coverage of events on his laptop. Yes, he knew that Silom Soi 4 was now closed. But this was Suriwong! It was only a 10 minute talk to the Red Shirt / Army standoff at Rama IV and Silom, but there were no soldiers on Soi Twilight.

Friday and Saturday night the larger gay host bars on Soi Twilight were closed. The owner of Dream Boys said it was too expensive to run the air conditioning when there were almost no customers. Police or military had not told the bars to close, and two or three were operating, though desperately short of clients. The government gave the Red Shirts a deadline to leave the protest sites by Monday afternoon, May 17. Monday and Tuesday were declared holidays, with government offices and schools closed. Now Wednesday and Thursday are also holidays. Television today has shown army tanks (armoured personnel carriers with machine guns mounted on top) dismantling Red Shirt barricades. Black smoke from burning tires spirals up from four or give locations, as Red Shirts try to protect their remaining areas.

The Skytrain and the Subway have been closed for at least five days now. The army have sealed off a large area around the Red shirts encampment, and are blocking any supplies coming in. Red shirts can leave the area, but not re-enter. Ten days ago I had wandered through the Red controlled areas with no problems, from police, army or Red Shirts. The Red Shirts had been able to move in large generators, so they would have power even if electricity was cut off in the area. Now the area is sealed off.

The government is providing transportation for Red Shirts to return to their home areas, and many individuals have left the protest sites. The government is also providing transportation for non-Thais who may still be in the area, with announcements in English on television today by a lead government spokesperson. Embassies are asking their nationals to take no risks. Stay home they say. Breaking news says that hundreds of armed police are forming lines on Sukhumvit road, which leads into the main protest site, backed up by some 20 police vans. Maybe this will be over in a couple of days. But we have been expecting an end to the confrontation for many weeks now.

Douglas Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor living in Bangkok. He can be contacted here.

May 21, 2010 –

Report from Gay Writer about Thailand Protests and Violence

The "Red Shirt" demonstrations in Bangkok, our home town, have come to an end. You can read an extensive account of events here over the last two months in our blog.

Douglas Thompson has written what most believe is a balanced and highly personal account of the demonstrations and their aftermath. You can also see nearly sixty photos taken by Douglas the day following the military operation that ended the demonstrations.

"There are quite a few things I would love to forget from these fifteen years in Thailand. The past few weeks will be fairly close to the top of my list. I have said more than once in this blog that peasant revolts lead by the wealthy and the powerful seldom go well for the peasants, and what I have seen over the past three weeks proves it painfully… read more.

2010 August 22 –

Examining HIV infection among male sex workers in Bangkok, Thailand
: a comparison of participants recruited at entertainment and street venues.

Toledo CA, Varangrat A, Wimolsate W, Chemnasiri T, Phanuphak P, Kalayil EJ, McNicholl J, Karuchit S, Kengkarnrua K, van Griensven F. Division of HIV/AIDS Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.

HIV prevalence and associated factors were examined among male sex workers (MSWs, N = 414) in Bangkok, Thailand. Cross-sectional venue-day-time sampling was used to collect data in entertainment and street venues. Chi-square and logistic regression were used to identify HIV risk factors. HIV prevalence was 18.8% overall, but differences were found between MSW recruited in entertainment and street venues. Significant relationships were found between several demographic, behavioral, exposure to HIV prevention, and other characteristics, and recruitment location. In multivariate analyses, being sexually attracted to men was significantly associated with HIV infection among both groups of sex workers. In addition, among street-based sex workers, not having had sex with a woman in the past 3 months, having ever had a sexually transmitted disease symptom, and not having a friend to talk to about personal problems were significantly associated with HIV infection.

August 24, 2010 – The New York Times

After Upheaval, Not All Is Well With Thai Youth

by Thomas Fuller
Na Chueak, Thailand — Three months ago, images of protesters battling the military in the streets of Bangkok seized the world’s attention. Now, by some measures, Thailand is bouncing back: the country’s economy is projected to grow as fast as 7.5 percent this year, and the government is pushing ahead with a program of “reconciliation” with its opponents.

But even as Thailand pulls itself back together, there are concerns that deep-seated problems among its young people represent a quieter, long-term threat to the country’s future.

Declining education standards — as well as reports of growing violence and drug and alcohol use among the young, which some analysts see as related issues — are contributing to fears that Thailand’s dream of joining the ranks of the world’s most developed countries may be getting more and more elusive.

“Our G.D.P. is going up, but our society is sick,” said Sombat Rittidej, the head of the northeastern division of Child Watch, a program that analyzes trends among young people across Thailand. “All the problems, all the vices are correlated,” he said. “When kids drink and smoke it relates to cutting class, dropping out of school, violence, fighting and premarital sex.”

Analysts point to a variety of troubling trends. The Thai news media reported in July that the country had the world’s highest number of people addicted to methamphetamines, an illegal stimulant that is especially popular with young people. Experts said that this claim, made by a government official, was impossible to verify but that there was no denying the scale of the Thai drug problem. Methamphetamines have become so prevalent in Thailand that researchers from Yale University are studying whether genetic factors have contributed to the country’s high addiction rates.

Read Article

November 30 2010 – Financial Times

Punitive laws on sex workers and drugs hamper progress

by Tim Johnston
The tide has turned in the fight against HIV in Asia, but the UN and activists are warning that it is going to become harder to maintain progress. “As a minimum, most national Aids epidemics have been halted, stabilised and reversed,” says Steven Kraus, the UNAids regional director for Asia and the Pacific.
The number of Asians living with Aids has remained stable at some 4.9m for the past five years, and the number of new infections in countries as diverse as India, Nepal and Thailand has fallen by 25 per cent over the past nine years.

But Mr Kraus warns that preserving that momentum is becoming more challenging. In many ways, such groups as UNAids are victims of their own success: they are starting to hit the law of diminishing returns. Progress so far has not been easy, but making further inroads against the epidemic is going to become ever harder. The key vectors of the Asian epidemic are well known: commercial sex, intravenous drug use, and what the industry refers to as MSM – men who have sex with men. It is MSM that is proving the most difficult segment to reach. “We have underestimated the MSM issue,” says Mr Kraus. “We’ve done inadequate programming in this area.”
But that is starting to change.

Nung spent years as a transgender sex-worker on the streets of the Thai capital Bangkok. Now she works for Swing, an organisation that promotes education for other sex workers, particularly in the MSM market. “We have to educate them about HIV, but we have to make it enjoyable,” she says, describing going into clubs and massage parlours to find out the date of the owner’s birthday before returning with gifts to turn a birthday party into an education session.

Nung says that Swing addresses not just the medical needs of sex workers – condoms, lubricants and regular health checks – but also issues of self-esteem. “It is a low-class occupation; everyone looks down on sex workers,” says Nung. She says lack of self-esteem makes it more difficult for prostitutes to resist pressure from clients who do not want to use a condom. There has been significant progress in the broader heterosexual sex industry, particularly in places such as Thailand, where there was a very public education programme. It even spawned its own restaurant, “Cabbages and Condoms”, which is popular with ordinary tourists, many of whom like to pose for a picture with the larger-than-life statue of a Santa Claus made of gaily coloured condoms.

Aids workers say projects with commercial sex workers are still vital, and more funding is needed, but the techniques are known and effective. The anti-HIV message has also been reaching intravenous drug users, although the picture is more mixed. Among the success stories has been Malaysia. “Malaysia had a draconian view of drug use, and has done a 180 degree turn. It used to have mandatory detention for drug users but now it has closed all the detention centres and reopened them as voluntary support centres. The authorities don’t see drug use as a law and order issue but as a personal and public health issue,” says Mr Kraus. The new approach has led to some startling improvements. In 2007, just 28 per cent of Malaysia’s injecting drug users said they had used sterile equipment: in 2009, that had risen to 83 per cent.

And there are some surprising outliers. Burma, not known for its progressive policies in other spheres, has supported an intervention programme of needle exchanges and clinics provided by international aid organisations. The UNAids 2010 global report shows 81 per cent of intravenous drug users using sterile equipment. Aids workers say much of problem now lies in the legal framework. In some countries, laws drive sex workers and drug users so far underground that they become hard to reach. In others, unconnected legislation against trafficking and illegal migration are changing the dynamics of the sectors of society worst affected by Aids. In its Global Report, UNAids estimates that 90 per cent of countries in Asia have laws that obstruct the rights of those living with HIV.
“Punitive laws that prevent us reaching key sectors of the population are a danger,” says Mr Kraus. “They do not build partnerships and they don’t create supportive environments, where community groups can access these key populations.”

These are significant problems, but they could be overcome by lobbying governments to change laws and modify the ways those that remain are implemented. The cultural challenges to controlling the MSM aspect of the HIV epidemic are much more difficult to solve. “Culture matters,” says Mr Kraus. “How societies view same-sex relations affects our ability to promote good programming. Until the culture changes, it is always going to be a problem getting to MSM.” The figures bear him out. In a 2007 survey, 88 per cent of Thai respondents who had anal sex with a male partner said they had used a condom: in Malaysia the number was 21 per cent.

Mr Kraus says that although almost all the governments in the region report that they are addressing the stigma attached to men who have sex with men, less than half have budgets. This, he says, gives a clearer indication of the real situation. “If it doesn’t get budgeted, it doesn’t get addressed.”

18 December 2010 – Asia News Net

Asia flooded with party, designer drugs

by Nirmal Ghosh, The Straits Times
On a street called Loi Kroh in Chiang Mai, young, tanned foreigners saunter among rows of shops and bars, in a scene typical of Thailand’s many tourist enclaves. But venture into one of its dingy side lanes, and the smart strip quickly reveals its grimy underbelly.
Here, unwashed foreigners, many with sallow skin from too much alcohol and too little sunlight, wander among semi- abandoned buildings. Beckoning to them are young Thais perched on parked motorbikes, selling sex and drugs.

Chances are the drug is methamphetamine, known widely in Thailand as ‘ya ba’, or ‘crazy drug’. The nickname comes from the effects of the drug – excitement, hyperactivity, irritability, hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis and, occasionally, aggressive behaviour. Nen, a counsellor at a drop-in centre run by social workers struggling to cope with the flood of drugs, is familiar with the symptoms – she is an addict herself. The 27-year-old was introduced to pills that she and her friends called ‘meth’ when she was 13. "I started because I wanted to be accepted by my circle of friends and my boyfriend," she said.

Initially, she would heat one meth pill, inhale the fumes, and ride the effects for three hours or so. But soon, one pill was not enough. When Nen was 16, her boyfriend gave her her first meth injection. She was afraid of the needle, she said, but when she felt the power reach her brain so quickly, she knew she wanted to do it that way. "It saves money and is more intense"’ she said. "When you smoke it, the effect comes slowly and stays with you for about three hours. When you inject it, you feel it straightaway and it lasts four or five hours." Nen now needs an average of three meth pills per day, with each costing anything from 180 baht to 250 baht ($6-$8).

Easy to make, easy to sell
Whether it is called ya ba, ice, shabu, crystal or batu kilat (‘shiny rocks’ in Malay), a flood of meth has swept across Asia, a rising tide assuming the proportions of a tidal wave. Unlike heroin, cocaine and other hardcore drugs, meth is easy to make and transport, cheap and highly profitable. It can be put together from precursor chemicals using basic laboratory equipment, producing a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that dissolves in water or alcohol.
Meth is one of the most popular types of amphetamine-type stimulants, which have become the primary drug threat in many countries, displacing opiates.

According to a report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as many as 20.7 million people in Asia have used amphetamines in the past year. Some estimates say there are as many as 53 million meth users around the world. Many use it recreationally at first, as a party drug. Others – like long-distance truckers – often use it to stay awake or alert in demanding physical jobs. And it is not the preserve of an underclass. In their 2009 book Merchants Of Madness, authors Bertil Lintner and Michael Black note that, unlike heroin, meth "has successfully transcended socioeconomic barriers, creating a new wave of drug addiction on an unprecedented scale in Thailand".

Much of South-east Asia’s meth is from eastern Burma, where drug warlords linked with insurgent ethnic groups have long been known for producing and trafficking in narcotics to fund their feud with the government. This corner of Indochina is better known as the Golden Triangle, once the centre of the opium trade. Today, while opium is also making a comeback, it is meth that is mostly trafficked across the porous borders with Thailand and Laos. In Burma itself, drugs are destroying the lives of thousands of young people, especially at ethnic minority areas in the country’s north and east.

In 2008, the authorities seized about one million meth pills. By last year, that number had jumped to a staggering 24 million. Burma is said to have 60,000 to 90,000 drug users who inject meth, with the sharing of needles causing a HIV prevalence rate of 36 to 38 per cent. The use of drugs has become so widespread that at Myitkyina University, in the state of Kachin, there are special dustbins for drug users to dump their needles to avoid accidents. Meth is not only easy to produce, but also easy to transport, making it a source of easy money for its manufacturers. A man can cross the Burma-Thailand border on a footpath through rugged hills and dense jungle with a few thousand pills in a single backpack.

And Thailand is bearing the brunt of the rise of meth. Last year, 26.6 million meth pills were seized, 20 per cent more than in the previous year, and almost double the number in 2007. Amounts of crystalline meth seized have also soared. The trade has bounced back after Thailand, under ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, launched his "war on drugs" in 2003. Then, the police homed in on thousands of suspected dealers in a controversial drive that ended up killing over 2,500 people, many of them small-time pushers and users, but some who were innocent.

However, it did serve to dampen supply, and saw the number of meth pills seized – which hit 95.9 million in 2002 – dropping to 31.1 million pills in 2004 and 15.4 million in 2005.

Read Article

27 December 2010 – Fridae

Thailand bans film about transgender ‘father’

by News Editor
Tanwarin Sukkapisit says her latest film about a transgender ‘father’ of two children has been banned, twice, because it’s a serious film – as transgender females on Thai television are widely considered acceptable but only for laughs.
Thailand’s film board has banned a movie about a male-to-female transgender parent struggling to raise two children. The 21-member National Film Board, which is chaired by the prime minister, ruled last Wednesday that the movie Insects in the Backyard can not be shown in Thailand but did not release an explanation for the ban.

Director and writer Tanwarin Sukkhapisit says the movie is based loosely based on her own life. Born male, Tanwarin began crossdressing as a teenager. In the movie, Tanwarin plays a 35-year-old single ‘father’ whose teenage son and daughter are torn by feelings of love and shame, and eventually run away from home and turn to the sex trade. The Associated Press (AP) quoted an official of the Culture Ministry’s Film and Video Screening Office, which is under the Department of Cultural Promotion, as saying that the movie has been banned for being "deeply immoral." The official added that it was "unnecessary" to show child sex workers and dreams of patricide that could be copied by young viewers.

The 37-year-old filmmaker says she’s seeking a limited theater run in Bangkok for audiences aged 20 and over, and plans to appeal the ban. She added that the scenes including an explicit depiction of two men having sex were crucial to the story line and could not be cut. Various media reports say the film includes a scene of Tanwarin masturbating with her penis visible, and fetish sex between the teenage children of the protagonist and their paying clients. The AP report also quoted two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak before the ministry’s official explanation is released, that among the scenes deemed "immoral" by the film board were clips showing children in their school uniforms working in the sex industry, a dream sequence in which a son kills his father and the male sex scene that the board found too graphic.

"Our society tries to show it accepts differences – but actually it doesn’t," Tanwarin said. "Thailand is still a conservative society. This is a case of the government using its power to suppress people with different opinions."

"The problem with my film wasn’t that it was a gay-themed movie – because there are many gay comedies allowed in Thailand," Tanwarin was quoted in by the AP as saying. "My movie was banned because it was a serious movie. It showed there can be real problems when society cannot accept sexual differences."

Transgender females and cross-dressers are regularly seen on TV soap operas – but almost always for comedic effect – and throughout Bangkok working in retail and restaurants, and at numerous transgender beauty pageants which are openly held.

In an interview published in the Bangkok Post in November, she questioned if Thai society is as open about gays and katoeys as it is often thought to be.

"Most people believe so. We’re not arrested on the streets. Our rights aren’t limited, and we can live fairly happily. But if you ask me if katoeys are accepted as part of the mainstream ‘we’ of society, I don’t think so. We’re still ‘the others’, the insects in the backyard.

"I’m saying this because that’s what’s happening. I’m not demanding anything. I didn’t make the film to present my statement, I just made it because that’s the story I wanted to tell. If katoeys are not part of the ‘we’ in society, so be it. I accept that fact and I’m fine with it."

12 January 2011 – Fridae