12 January 2011 – Fridae
The first Thai ‘Tom’ movie
by Douglas Sanders
Thailand, which has the world’s only ‘Tom’ (butch lesbian) magazine, has a new ‘Tom’ movie. Doug Sanders reports. The new Thai-language movie, "Yes or No" (Yak Rak Kor Rak Leoi), happily has English subtitles. There are two lead female characters. Pie is a typical Thai college girl, dressed in the obligatory black skirt and white blouse. She is pretty, self-centered, bossy and from an apparently privileged and prosperous urban family background. In western slang, she is a ‘spoiled brat.’
Kim is a ‘farm girl.’ She is a ‘Tom’ with short hair, no visible breasts, and, in some scenes, cargo pants. She smiles boyishly on the cover of the November issue of the Thai language magazine Tom Act. Tom Act is celebrating its third anniversary. Oops! Pie and Kim are booked together as roommates in a college residence. When Pie first sees Kim, she asks “are you a girl?” Kim is innocent; it seems, about being a Tom, asking what it means and what signals that she is a Tom. She has never had a boy friend or a girl friend, she says.
In Thai society, where Toms are all around, her innocence is not very credible. Yes, she is a ‘farm girl’, but it turns out that the farm is a vineyard, and the family business makes and sells wine. Yes, wine is made in Thailand. Like Pie, she comes from a prosperous family background. Pie immediately indicates her hostility to Toms, paralleling her mother’s strong and vocal prejudices. Pie wants to switch roommates. But she has already switched roommates once, and a serious Tom matron (with the shortest brush cut on record and the body of a Bulgarian wrestler) informs her that she can only switch once and she should get used to having a Tom roommate.
Pie is forced into co-existence. She uses red tape to mark off her side of the room and Kim’s side of the room and blocks Kim from playing music or video games. Kim responds with gentle initiatives – offering Pie some food she has cooked in her rice cooker – and making Pie’s bed in the morning after she breezes off to class. There are three layers to the story. The core story is about Pie overcoming the vehement hatred of Toms that she has inherited from her nasty mother – and Kim coming to terms with being a Tom.
At a second level there are two figures who serve as potential alternate boy-friends/girl-friends. Van, a bland handsome male, wants to be Pie’s partner. He is characterless – as if all straight men are boring. Jane, a weepy, pathetic femme lesbian, tries and tries to seduce Kim. She is a thoroughly unpleasant character, overplayed in contrast to Van’s minimalism. These side characters prompt mistaken jealousy on the part of Kim (against Van) and Pie (against Jane). Neither Van nor Jane are credible characters, which weakens the film.
At a third level there are some additional characters at the school. Here the film descends into the comedy patterns of many popular Thai films. There is an over-the-top lady boy, who camps it up and makes inappropriate passes at straight men. There is a very odd short female student, Nerd (yes, that’s the name given to this character), who is the only figure who is not fair skinned. She is depicted as mentally slow. These extras are comedy figures, giving us a break from the on-again / off-again relationship developing between Pie and Kim. Thankfully missing from the cast of characters are the standard ridiculous kathoey comedy figures that show up on television and in films.
As a non-Thai, living here in the magic kingdom, I have to say that the film seems to me to be very Thai. I have been giving classes at Thai universities here in Bangkok for over ten years, and the depiction of the students certainly fits many of my images from these years. The neurotic mother is, for me, a more problematic figure. But she parallels the neurotic mother in the 2007 gay classic Love of Siam. Both are tense mothers in urban middle-class Bangkok, not the relaxed friendly figures we associate with Thai culture.
The film lacks a good over-all story line. We get a number of episodes in which Pie and Kim are getting to know themselves and each other. These often seem like a string of separate episodes from a TV soap opera or a serialised novel. I kept thinking we were at an ending – but then a new episode in the story would begin. The film is a breakthrough in its serious depiction of a Tom character and her interaction with others. I have been told of one earlier Thai film with a major Tom character, but it is before my time. There was also a sympathetically portrayed Tom character in the popular 2007 Thai film Me – Myself.
“Yes or No” seems to be the first film giving a serious lead role to a Tom character. The part is well handled by Supanat Jittaleela. Sucharat Manaying is convincing as the rather empty-headed Pie, who matures in the film. Together, they outshine all the other characters. Well done!
Douglas Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor living in Bangkok. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Semi-official gay website undergoes revamp
Taipei(CNA) – Reviews of books and albums popular among the homosexual population in Taiwan will be featured on a quasi-governmental gay website starting Saturday, in an attempt to satisfy the increasingly diverse needs of the community, according to the website manager Taiwan AIDS Foundation (TAF). “Gay people lead diverse lifestyles, ”said Bevis Tseng, a TAF employee, in explaining the motive for expanding the content of the website from basic information about disease prevention to that including gay-friendly news, events, outings, and artwork.
He noted that music reviews on gay idols such as Lady Gaga and book reviews on important gay literature help to enrich the lives of gay people. “After all, living a vibrant life is what makes you healthy in the first place,”Tseng said.
The website, called “Enjoy Sex”, was commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2008 to help combat acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and provide accurate disease-related information to the general public. The changes in the website are expected to attract about 5,000 to 10,000 visitors within five days of its re-launch, gay and non-gay alike, said Tseng, adding that people can also subscribe to an electronic bi-monthly newsletter through the website. (By Nancy Liu) ENDITEM/cs
26 January 2011 – Fridae
New Thai airline recruits transsexuals as flight attendants
by News Editor
Thai media reported yesterday that a new Thai-based airline has hired three transsexual flight attendants among its first batch of 30 new hires. It might well be a public relations exercise but it’s still a step in the right direction.
Thai media reported yesterday that a new Thai-based airline P.C. Air has hired three transsexual flight attendants – the company’s initial quota – alongside 17 cisgender women and 10 men among its first batch of 30 new hires. Among the three is Miss Tiffany 2007 transsexual beauty pageant winner Thanyarat "Film" Jiraphatpakorn.
The 23-year-old was quoted as saying: "At first I thought they would just take applications but not actually recruit us, as happened at other places before." The company had recently conducted a roadshow accepting applications from "third sex" candidates, who have to check the "unisex" column in the application form, at Bangkok’s Esplanade shopping mall.
An airline spokesperson was quoted as saying that the company recognises the potential of transsexuals to work as hostesses and hopes to offer equal opportunities to them. He explained that after passing the preliminary round, the transsexual candidates will undergo training along with female air-hostesses and will have a ‘third sex’ name tag pinned to their uniform to avoid immigration issues.
Despite their high profile in Thailand, transsexuals are unable to change their legal status, and often report that they are still stereotyped and are often unable to find work outside the entertainment and beauty industry. The airline plans to launch flights on March 1.
10 February 2011 – Fridae
Bangkok Post goes gay
by Douglas Sanders
Fridae’s Bangkok correspondent Douglas Sanders notices that the country’s two major English language newspapers, which are widely read by locals and not just expats, are devoting more space to LGBT-related news and lifestyle stories. Thailand has two major English language newspapers, the Bangkok Post and the Nation. There are a number of Thai-language newspapers, but Thai elites, I am told, will read one of the English language papers, probably the Bangkok Post, perhaps along with a Thai-language paper.
The Post and The Nation are not the kind of small circulation English-language papers aimed at expats and outsiders that we see in Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and China. Their customers are mainly Thai people. It seems generally true that these English language newspapers – in countries were English is not a significant language for public media – are more liberal than local language publications. China Daily, for example, has run a number of very gay friendly stories, that I assume are not typical of media aimed at the Chinese public. While many Thai-language newspapers tend to in tabloid style, headlining sex and crime, the Post and the Nation are liberal western-style papers, with most news stories coming straight from Western wire services, like AP and Reuters.
The Nation, which has lost money for a number of years, pioneered explicitly gay reporting. For years there has been a weekly column by a gay-identified Thai man. A couple of years ago he moved from a pseudonym to using his own name and a personal e-mail address for feedback. For a while there was a dedicated Friday gay page. The column continues. Gay and lesbian coverage is actually more mainstream in the paper these days, sometimes appearing in op-ed opinion pieces and even in editorials.
The Bangkok Post, the largest circulation English language paper, has just consolidated its various lifestyle sections into one Monday to Friday package, simply called Life. On Thursday, February 3rd, we got the first dedicated page for “Queer Eye” with a lead introduction by Yanapon Musiket, a Post writer who has usually covered gender issues. We are promised this will be a monthly event. The page, like much of the Bangkok Post as a whole, is mainly about the West. One box has a story about current US media – films, music, television – taken from the annual US gay media awards. A second box is about Tom Ford, fashion designer and film maker. A third is about the upcoming launch of a Thai edition of the British gay magazine Attitude. A fourth story is about US activists discussing religion.
The lead column, however, is an introduction and overview by Yanapon Musiket under the title “Celebrating a diverse society,” with a subtitle “Gender-bending culture makes Thailand a Unique Place.” The picture is of a famous kathoey, Thanyarat “Film” Jiraphatpakorn, a winner of the annual Miss Tiffany transgender crown. She is shown holding her statuette, smiling between two runners-up. Kathoey glamour symbolises queer Thailand.
The column begins by reminding us that last week’s big story was about the hiring of three kathoey flight attendants, including Thanyarat, by the new charter airline, PC Air. The story went around the world. “There is something about Thailand and its tolerance of homosexuality and transgenderism that puts our Kingdom in the spotlight,” the column reads.
The column refers back to many instances in the past when the Bangkok Post has covered issues of gender diversity. But those, the columnist comments, were always cast as “social issues.” Now the “Queer Eye” page will turn a new leaf and focus on the “fun” of these lifestyles and show “queer culture” as part of culture in general. The column promises. “…one-of-a-kind stories about local and international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scenes, and how they turn this world around like their favourite disco ball.”
Douglas Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor, living in Thailand. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
February 14, 2011 – The Citizen News Service
Mental health of MSM and Transgender on blind spot
by Bobby Ramakant – CNS
Depression, harassment, relationship problems, loneliness, and social isolation, were among the few pressing mental health concerns that were highlighted during interactions with members from men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) and transgender community. The existing services for MSM and transgender people, firstly, are decimal and not reaching a vast majority of community members, and secondly, they seldom serve their mental health needs optimally.
So what do the MSM and transgender people do when confronted with mental health challenges? "We are referred to our friends or community people. We rarely go to official psychologist or psychiatrist" was the response from one of the members of the transgender communities. HIV and STI counselling is more concerned with sexual and reproductive health, and doesn’t adequately address mental health concerns beyond HIV prevention and to some extent care and support issues. There were strong remarks made on the inadequate counselling on HIV treatment, care and support.
"When there is adequate self-esteem and self-respect, there is a natural desire to be healthy, to take care of one self, to engage in safer sexual practice. So none of what we do will be successful if we ignore mental health issues" remarked another member. "Everybody has some problem or the other – depression, etc, but when it becomes so much that everyday life becomes difficult then professional help from psychological counsellor or psychiatrist might be needed" said a member.
"We speak about behaviour change – there is a big gap between acquiring knowledge and behaviour change, there is a gap between information and practice. This is where good mental health might help reduce the gap. When we are healthy enough, when we have adequate sense of what our worth is and how important we are to ourselves and when we have a tendency to take care of ourselves, behaviour may change" said Aniruddh Vasudevan, Director of The Shakti Centre in Chennai to CNS correspondent last year.
"We have artificially set up a hierarchy that attending to physical health is more important than attending to our mental health. Body and mind are not split, rather they are together. So we better attend to the mind too when we are attending to the body" had said Aniruddh. People are often reluctant to accept that they might be needing mental healthcare. "When there is an emotional problem one might be finding it difficult to deal with, somehow we think that taking help is bad, it is a defeat, it is like giving in" had said Aniruddh. "But if there is a physical health issue, we don’t hesitate in taking help and even go to the pharmacy and self-treat at times. But we don’t do this when there is a mental health issue and hesitate to seek help" further adds Aniruddh.
"Even when we have accepted ourselves as we are, there are emotional issues like break-up, or when one of our friends is dying, people will think that we have these issues because we are MSM, transgender. I think we are blaming others in advance even before they say it, because in some corner of our minds, we think we are the source of our problems. Even the best of us who are comfortable with ourselves, in some corner there is a doubt that we are the source of our problems" ponders Aniruddh. "At times, we think that it is because of us, we are causing so many problems to our parents or to our sister who might not be getting married on time. Sometimes the source of the problem is not us, but because we are concerned about the people around us. It is a sign of humanity that we are concerned about people around us. We have extra mental health problem because we are different and that is causing problems around us" added Aniruddh.
Another significant comment Aniruddh made was that the members of affected communities need capacity building and must be competent enough to contribute effectively in programmes addressing their community. "Just coming from a community doesn’t mean that the person is automatically equipped to peer counsel – we have to do something to equip ourselves" said Aniruddh. "At times, it is easier to talk to somebody you don’t know. Professional counsellors or psychiatrists can’t proactively reach out to people and counsel, they can only counsel those who come to them and ask for the counselling. However the peer counsellors can go out to the community and help those who might need help" said Aniruddh.
"Most basic thing in counselling is listening and the person sitting in front of counsellor is most important person. We are not arguing to say that peer counselling can replace professional counselling, but we believe that peer counselling can supplement professional counselling. Peer counsellors cannot handle all cases like suicidal cases at times, so should do referral services to professional counselling" said Aniruddh.
Peer counselling is not about offering solution – because the message that gets across is the person being counselled is not capable enough of finding solutions.
February 15, 2011 – Straits Times
Michel Sidibe’s fight against prejudice
by Nirmal Ghosh
Soi Cowboy is a tiny lane off Sukhumvit in Bangkok, probably around 80 metres in length, crammed with go-go bars catering almost exclusively to foreign customers. At night it becomes a loud, screeching, crowded place pounding with music, grotesquely drenched in coloured lights. But it is also a focus for much economic activity – and not just the sex trade. Food vendors do brisk business from their carts. Others sell roses. Some sell fake watches and handicrafts. On Monday evening – Valentine’s Day – I turned up at Soi Cowboy to meet UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé, who is in Bangkok to meet with Thai government officials on a mission to get Thailand to spend more on prevention of HIV-AIDS.
As they do on most Valentine’s Days on Soi Cowboy – and in Pattaya – the non-government safe sex activist group SWING Foundation was laying on a show to promote the use of condoms. SWING co-founder Chamrong Phaengnongyang was dressed in a tiny gold bikini-like outfit and prancing up and down the street with a wireless microphone constantly exhorting everyone to practice safe sex. A gifted and frenetic communicator, he has the talent to engage, entertain and raise a laugh from almost anyone.
Behind him, a band pounded out rousing, thumping music from the north-eastern Isan region. Many of the young women in the trade here are from Isan, a relatively poor region.
SWING organised their famous condom fashion show as well, with models dressed in clothes made from condoms. They floated and pranced along a red carpet holding boards advocating safe sex. Nearby, more SWING volunteers stood with trays of free condoms. I saw several young bar workers taking handfuls.
Mission In Thailand
I asked Sidibé, what his mission is in Thailand, and what his challenges are globally, in terms of his vision of ‘zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero deaths from HIV.’ ‘First of all, Thailand is a successful country…we have been able to demonstrate in Thailand that we can virtually eliminate transmission from mother to child,’ he said above the din of the crowd and the music. ‘They are not having any more babies born with HIV. They have managed to reach universal access on treatment.’
‘But prevention remains a major problem, particularly prevention among sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), drug users and illegal migrants. This visit is to push up the prevention agenda, to make sure the government can invest more resources in the revolution in prevention I am calling for. We are seeing a growing epidemic among MSM, and among sex workers – not in brothels, but in the streets. I will meet the Prime Minister and the governor of Bangkok. I want to have zero new infection in Bangkok. It is possible.’
Rising rates of infection in high-risk groups create a reservoir of the virus which then spills over into the general population. The groups do not live in isolation, he pointed out. In Thailand, less than 20 per cent of the budget for HIV-AIDS is allocated to prevention – critical elements of which are wide availability of condoms and sterile needles for intravenous drug users. But despite a tolerant culture, there remains prejudice in some areas – which undermines efforts to address some high-risk groups.
The Mali-born Sidibé has much experience in Francophone Africa, and is no stranger to issues like prejudice. ‘I am fighting the prejudice, stigma, and discrimination that prevent people from using services,’ he said. ‘I’m fighting prejudice against most of the at-risk population throughout the world. Eighty countries have homophobic laws; six countries consider they (homosexuals) deserve the death sentence.’
16-February-2011 – Paul Causey
Global Commission Reviews Legal Barriers Obstructing Progress on AIDS – Historic dialogue hears issues of Asia and the Pacific from over 150 people.
by UNDP, Bangkok
Thirty years after the first cases of HIV were diagnosed, 90 percent of countries in the Asia-Pacific region still have laws and practices that obstruct the rights of people living with HIV and those at higher risk of HIV exposure. As part of a global drive to remove barriers to progress in the AIDS response, policymakers and community advocates will join experts from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law in Bangkok on 17 February for the first in a series of regional dialogues to be held across the world.
The Global Commission on HIV and the Law is an independent body comprising some of the world’s most respected legal, human rights and HIV leaders. At this week’s dialogue, approximately 150 participants from 22 countries will discuss and debate region-wide experiences of restrictive and enabling legal and social environments faced by key populations in the Asia-Pacific region, including people living with HIV.
According to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, “The law and its application can have a profound impact on the lives of people, especially those who are marginalized and disempowered. The law is a powerful instrument to challenge stigma, promote public health, and protect human rights. We have much to learn from the positive and negative experiences in this region on the interactions between the law, legislative reform, law enforcement practices, and public health responses.”
Read the complete news release
22 February 2011 – Fridae
Thai, Burmese LGBTs march in Chiangmai
by Sylvia Tan
An estimated 200 to 400 members of Chiangmai‘s LGBT community – including some 70 of Burmese origin – and their supporters marched in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Sunday to promote non-violence towards members of the LGBT community. Organised by Mplus, a Chiangmai-based HIV/AIDS NGO, and a coalition of other community groups, the march was officiated by the deputy mayor of Chiang Mai and went on without incident.
The northern Thai city witnessed its first LGBT march on 27 January 2008 when some 160 gay activists and NGO workers who were in town for the third International Lesbian and Gay Association Asia conference joined locals in a march through the main Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar road. The second parade held on 21 February 2008 was however attacked by Redshirt groups and/or members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) which accused participants of destroying the local culture.
Labelled as a ‘peace walk’ to promote gay rights and non-violence towards members of the LGBT community, the parade on Sunday passed through the busy Chiang Mai Night Bazaar area. Gay and human rights activists including Anjana Suwanawanon, President of SOGI Foundation (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) and Aung Myo Min, Director of Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) addressed the crowd. They were joined by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson, a Presbyterian minister and missionary, and a Buddhist monk, Pra. Tanomsing Kossonnawin, President of Dhammadrops Foundation and other speakers who spoke against discrimination.
Aung Myo Min, a former Representative ILGA-ASIA, told Fridae: "This peace walk sends a message to society that LGBT people are not a problem, but part of society. We can contribute good things to society and we need understanding and recognition. And we don’t want violence." Myo, who is also the director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, explained that it is difficult to achieve LGBT rights within the Burmese exile community and in Burma, public protests of any kind are not permitted.
“We are struggling and we still have to try much harder to obtain equality for LGBT people. We can say that it is a struggle within a struggle. It means that the LGBT rights activists are struggling even in the communities which promote democracy and human rights for Burma in order to fulfill LGBT rights.” He was quoted as saying in The Irrawaddy, a news magazine published by Burmese exiles living in Thailand.
The India-based Burmese-focused Mizzima News Agency noted: “Activists said that the Burmese community has become more understanding of the rights of homosexuals in recent years. In the past, The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) classified homosexuality as a crime. In 1997, the ABSDF revoked that classification. Similarly, the Burmese Women’s Union now allows all women, including lesbians, to apply for membership.”
Gay rights activist and project coordinator of the Mplus project Pongthorn Chanlearn was relieved that the event went on smoothly. He was quoted as saying in The Irrawaddy that although gay people were not seriously injured physically in 2008 during the counter protest, they were injured psychologically. “We respect and are aware of the local culture,” Chanlearn said. “We just want to promote LGBT rights and reduce discrimination against the LGBT community. We want to align our identity between the culture and our rights.”
15 March 2011 – Fridae
Attitude with a smile
by Douglas Sanders
Attitude is the best selling British gay magazine. Now we have a Thai language version. Is there really a market for a Thai gay ‘lifestyle’ magazine? Doug Sanders ponders the issues from his home in Bangkok, near a friendly Smile Book Store.
Attitude was launched over 16 years ago, and now bills itself as the largest circulation UK gay magazine. It has long been available in Bangkok in Kinokuniya and Bookazine. Those outlets also retail Out, Advocate, Details and Gay Times (mainly, I think, for foreign customers). With the ups and downs of some of these magazines, Attitude is probably the most successful gay magazine internationally at this point in time. It is well produced. Lots of fashion. Lots of celebrity news.
On March 9, 2011, the first Thai language edition of Attitude hit the newsstands. Three young Thai men are on the cover. Like the cover of the February UK edition, they are wearing pants but no shirts. Inside photographs are also erotic, but discrete. There will be no problems with censors. The three young men are straight actors from an upcoming TV comedy drama about a school swim team. The three are interviewed in the magazine. Using fresh new media figures is in line with the focus on popular culture in Attitude and other Western gay magazines. The performers want publicity. They are trendy. They are probably free.
Seventy percent of the content of the Thai edition is taken directly from the British magazine and translated into Thai. The graphics for those stories are identical. In one feature, the model who is sporting a range of US ‘preppy’ clothing is the same face in both the UK and Thai editions. If the shirts come off, the bodies are changed from British to Thai. This is unabashedly a “gay” magazine. The staff listed for the British edition are almost completely male. Women get included in stories if they are celebrities, like Lady Gaga or Sandra Bernhard. A Thai woman, Laikram Lerdvitayaprasit, working with GMM Publishing, made the deal with Attitude UK. Her editor is a Thai man, Thawatchai Deepattana. He heads a four man editorial team, all gay and all experienced writers on lifestyle.
GMM publishes localised editions of Madame Figaro and Her World for women, and Maxim for men. There is an odd historical echo. One of the first of the small-format gay magazines, Neon, was launched in the 1980s by a straight publisher, recognising there was a market out there. Nikul, a gay Thai man was editor.
The first Thai edition of Attitude has lots of advertisements – Jean Paul Gaultier, Diesel, Paco Robanne, Sisley, Puma, Giorgio Armani, Davidoff, Playboy eyewear. This is an impressive start, even if they gave away advertising space to lure business. None of these flashy hi-so ads turn up in the UK edition in February – and Diesel is the only big international brand name to advertise in March. So maybe the ads in Attitude Thailand were solicited by GMM contacts, not Attitude UK contacts.
The February number of Attitude UK has eight pages of ads for sex hot lines, massages, and dates. It seems forbidden to bill yourself, in these ads, as an “escort.” A full page advertisement for something called “XXX Filth”, lists 100 “real stories” you can get by telephone, pretty raunchy stuff, usually involving teenagers. These ads are in sharp contrast to the upscale tone of the rest of the magazine.
Thai give-away gay tourist magazines live on ads from gay bars and massage parlors. Attitude Thailand has none of these. It has no advertisements for any local gay venues, not even hotels or restaurants. Such advertisements would bring Attitude Thailand into collaboration with the commercial gay sex scene in the major Thai cities. Given the sex advertisements in Attitude UK; that should not be a problem in the relationship between the two magazines. The Thai ads would in fact be more discrete than those currently appearing in Attitude UK.
Attitude Thailand may never get advertisements for local gay businesses. Middle class Thai gay men have usually shunned the venues that attract foreigners (both Caucasians and Asian foreigners). Those businesses will probably not spend money advertising in Attitude Thailand, recognising that you will not get to foreign gay customers, whether tourists or expatriates, through a Thai language magazine. The English language tourist give-away gay magazines and maps will keep their advertisers. Maybe the high-end shopping malls and designer stores will start advertising.
Smile! Attitude landed on the shelves in Smile books. Wow! Smile books are a 7-11 invention, and 7-11 convenience stores are everywhere in Thailand. They sell magazines in their stores. They also run Smile book stores. @ Tom Act has never been handled by Smile books or by Faster Books in the skytrain stations. It has often been hard to find. @ Tom Act seemed destined to go under – not much advertising and poor distribution. But it has celebrated its third anniversary, and is very professionally produced. It has become a bit easier to find, but it doesn’t get space in Smile books. GMM in Bangkok, apparently, knew how to deal with distribution. Smile Books already handled Maxim with sexy women on the cover. They could now deal with Attitude.
March 20, 2011 – AFP
Thai army changes transgender terms: report
Bangkok(AFP) — Thailand’s defence ministry has coined new terms to describe transgender men normally exempt from army conscription to avoid causing them offence, a report said Sunday. The ministry is amending the law that states transgender people are exempt from signing up to the military — unless there is a shortage of recruits — because of a "psychological abnormality", the Bangkok Post newspaper said.
When Thailand’s annual conscription begins in April, "Type 2" will instead refer to men who have undergone breast implants and "Type 3" will describe those who have had a full sex change, the Bangkok Post newspaper said. "Type 1" will refer to men "whose appearances are typical of men".
"Normally only Type 1 are required to draw a conscription ballot," Thaksin Chiamthong, director of the academic resources division of the Army Reserve Command, told the paper. "But if the number of Type 1 is insufficient, Type 2 will be conscripted as well, despite their female-like breasts."
Thaksin’s office was unavailable for comment on Sunday. The army reportedly proposed replacing the current classification in the Conscription Act of 1954 with "gender identity disorder", but faced ire from rights groups opposed to any term that suggested abnormality. The Thai armed forces need to conscript 97,280 men aged 21 this year — up by 9,828 from 2010, the paper said.
31 March 2011 – The Bangkok Post
Condoms to be given out at gay nightspots
Health authorities will set up "Condom Points" to dispense free condoms at entertainment venues frequented by gay men in a bid to reduce risky sexual behaviour and the transmission of HIV/Aids. Under the pilot project, purple plastic boxes filled with 300 condoms of different sizes and lubricant gel packs will be installed at entertainment spots targeting men who have sex with men (MSM) such as discos, karaoke bars, fitness centres, saunas and beauty salons. The project is part of a national Aids prevention plan among this particular group.
HIV surveillance data indicates a high HIV transmission rate among MSM in Thailand due to unsafe sex. Of the estimated 10,097 new HIV cases expected this year, 30% would involve men having sex with men, according to the Public Health Ministry. "If we don’t come up with any prevention plan, this MSM group could account for half the total new cases in the country in the next 14 years," said Public Health permanent secretary Paijit Warachit.
So far operators of 188 entertainment nightspots in 30 provinces including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri and Phuket have agreed to participate. Dr Paijit said the Condom Point programme is planned to cover entertainment spots nationwide by next year. An estimated 2.5 million baht in funding was allocated for the Condom Point project this year. Aids experts will monitor the project over the next five years, he said.
Kittinan Thammatat, chairman of the gay rights advocacy group Thai Rainbow Club, believed the Condom Point project would allow young, sexually active MSM better access to condoms, regarded as an effective tool to prevent the transmission of HIV/Aids and other sexually-transmitted diseases such as syphilis and hepatitis. Mr Kittinan also called on policymakers to work with companies to lower the price of condoms. A pack of condoms costs 40-50 baht and this is considered expensive by teenagers whether they are gay or straight.
A study by the Thai Red Cross’s Aids Research Centre and Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of medicine on 11,658 MSM who visited its clinic between January 2009 and July 2010 found a spike in syphilis transmission among them as well. The study reflected the need for a better prevention plan for sexually transmitted diseases among this group. Speaking during the 13th National Aids Conference, Phusit Prakongsai, International Health Policy Programme director, said national investment in such a high-burden disease as Aids was still insufficient.
Less than 1% of the country’s gross domestic product was spent on HIV/Aids although the disease affected patients’ quality of life. In addition, only 5% of the total 300 billion baht spent on the universal healthcare scheme is earmarked for health prevention in general. Mr Phusit believed more money should be spent on Aids and prevention campaigns to solve the problem in both the public health and social dimensions.
March 2011 – Vimeo
Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue
This channel contains videos of the Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. More information about the Global Commission on HIV and the Law can be found here.
02 April, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
Bangkok’s MSM HIV Explosion – Precursor for Asia’s Mega-cities?
The last five years have seen astonishing – arguably catastrophic – increases in HIV seroprevalence among Thai gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM). HIV seroprevalence has risen from less than 10 percent early this decade to more than 28 percent by mid-decade.
Major questions of international significance arise:
• How could increases as dramatic as these happen in a country with a previously successful HIV prevention response?
• Is Bangkok merely the precursor for similar HIV catastrophes among the MSM communities of Asia’s other mega-cities?
• What can the world learn from Thailand’s experience in these dramatic increases?
A complex series of factors is involved in analysing why these increases happened – but arguably they add up to Bangkok being a tragic case study of how an effective ‘enabling environment’ for a national HIV response can be inadvertently dismantled – with catastrophic results.
Bangkok has a large MSM community. Low-range estimates place it between 150,000 and 300,000 . There are more than 35 MSM saunas and sex venues in Bangkok alone and the majority of these cater to the “Thai-with-Thai” market – that is, not to foreigners. That there was alarming HIV seroprevalence rates among Thai MSM became clear in mid-2003 when a large-scale seroprevalence study was conducted by the Thai Ministry of Public Health (MoPH)-U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Collaboration . The Collaboration set out to ensure the study covered a wide cross-section of Bangkok MSM by working in partnership with Bangkok’s main MSM community organisation, Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand.
The study revealed a startling 17 percent HIV seroprevalence among Bangkok MSM. As more than 1,100 men were interviewed there is little doubt of the validity of the results. Previously it had been widely assumed that HIV among Thai MSM was predominantly among Thai men who prefer sex with white foreigners. This study, however, excluded Thai men who prefer sex with white foreigners as far as possible. The 17 percent figure was so much higher than expected that initial reactions were disbelief and scepticism. The government was reluctant to release the data for fear that it would reflect badly on Thailand’s response to HIV. It was eventually released publicly – but certainly not promoted: neither among the MSM community or more widely.
In 2005, a follow-up survey was conducted and its scope was extended to include male sex workers in Bangkok and to two locations outside of Bangkok – Chiangmai and Phuket. These results were even more alarming. HIV seroprevalence among Bangkok MSM had jumped to 28 percent in just two years, while 15 percent of MSM in Chiang Mai were infected. This rate of increase is unprecedented outside of injecting drug use (IDU) populations (e.g., such as is currently occurring in Eastern Europe). Again scepticism reigned initially – but dissipated when similar indicative data from the Thai Red Cross Anonymous Clinic and the Silom Community Clinic corroborated a figure in the 25-30 percent range.
Bangkok had shot to top of the world league for MSM HIV seroprevalence! Inner Sydney, for instance, has only about 15 per cent MSM seroprevalence and San Francisco, one of the cities with the highest rates of HIV among MSM, is around 26-27 percent. The rapidity of these increases strongly suggested that Bangkok has been suffering an “epidemic of acute HIV infection” over the last five years. That is, rapid rates of transmission arising largely from newly-infected – and therefore highly-infectious – men. Many major Western cities experienced similar such epidemics in the late 1970s and early 1980s – before any of us were aware such a thing could be happening.
How could this be happening in Bangkok now – and why has an effective response been so long in coming? There are some major contextual factors impacting on the Bangkok’s lack of response to the rising HIV epidemic. These factors need to be understood within the context of Thailand’s culture and particularly its approach to sex and sexuality.
Thai culture and sex between men
Thai culture around sexuality and gender is quite unique – and its nuances frequently misinterpreted by Westerners. For instance, Thai culture frowns upon any overt, public displays of affection, whether between heterosexual people or others such as MSM, but – paradoxically for many Westerners – it is a society very accepting of different sexual practices as long as they are undertaken away from public view. The sex industry thrives – every provincial town has at least a couple of brothels. Thai culture also condones a role for katoey (femininised gay men who usually adopt a transgender role). Sex between men has never been illegal or condemned as sinful by the main religion (Buddhism).
However, any sex, whether it is with a sex worker, sex between men or male-female sex, is private. To talk in public, openly and directly about sex publicly risks losing face. The concept of face and the resulting shame is extremely powerful, a concept that is not well understood by those from Western cultures. But despite these apparent contradictions, many Thai people see sex positively – as a casual, enjoyable recreation – not an activity burdened with all the moral baggage and tension within which Westerners cloak it. Its chief purpose is pleasure. But it’s seldom talked about.
With this cultural setting it is not surprising that Thailand had an early, rapid, sexual-transmission-driven HIV epidemic. And given that overall cultural context, it is particularly admirable that the “100%-Condom Use for Commercial Sex” campaign of the early 1990s dramatically turned around Thailand’s high rates of HIV infection among its general population, including MSM.
April 3, 2011 – HealthDev.net
Homosexuality and acceptance: Using creativity to address an important health issue in Chiang Mai
“These kids just need a platform to get their views across”. These were some of the words amongst the many spoken by Christopher Whitfield on another blazing day in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Over what can only be described as typical Thai fare, brownies and ice tea, Christopher explained to me why he, a photographer from Portland, Oregon, was attempting to work with college students from Chiang Mai. Being a representative of Art Relief International (ARI) he has been sent to Thailand to specifically address some of the issues the gay community face here. Over the last few years the MSM (men having sex with men) group, including transgenders and sex workers, have become increasingly accepted amongst society here. However there are still many difficulties faced by those living at home with families and those who may have been diagnosed with HIV. Stigma and the pain that comes with it still exist even with the continued efforts of MPlus+, an NGO based in Chiang Mai specifically dealing with HIV awareness and the rights of the MSM and gay community.
Working at MPlus+ has allowed me to personally see what Christopher, ARI and Mplus+ have been doing to address some of these issues. Earlier this year, ARI approached MPlus+ in the hope of using the creative arts to work on the issues faced by the gay community in Chiang Mai. Last week I sat in on a session where this collaboration was encouraging local college kids to let their creative juices flow. By using storyboards, a translator and Christopher’s eye for imagery, the students came up with a film idea expressing what the young face, even by just being suspected of being gay and not fitting in with the norm. The story revolved around a boy picking up a flower amongst the thousands in a park, smelling it and continuing to hold it. This is construed to be ‘atypical’ behaviour for a male by the child’s parents and he is subsequently beaten with a wooden cane. I will not reveal anymore in regards to the film, as you shall have to see it online, however, the message is clear; even simple gestures that in an ideal society would mean nothing, can mean a lot here.
This film is addressing ‘acceptance’ and this is an incredibly important issue if Mplus+ is to succeed in aiding the gay community and also spreading HIV awareness. With the cogs turning in terms of keeping mobile HIV clinics maintained, awareness programmes going and fundraising concerts started, all it takes is the non-acceptance of this community to introduce a painfully large spanner in the works. This highlights the need to work on the rights of the MSM/gay community while increasing HIV awareness, simultaneously. One cannot work without the other.
Seeing the film workshop was encouraging, not only in visualising a potential film but also observing how creativity and human rights can work towards defeating two of the most important global health issues we face; stigma and non-acceptance. If this energy were harnessed by big creative companies such as Disney or the BBC, imagine what could be achieved? A gay Woody in Toy Story 4 or maybe an HBO series about a male, Burmese, HIV positive, sex worker? Lets hope many learn from what MPlus+ and ARI are doing, and just maybe next time you turn on your TV, you’ll be watching the pilot episode of ‘ Sex in The City: Chiang Mai’.
April 18, 2011 – The Body
Thailand: Ambitious HIV/AIDS Mission Launched
From U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
In line with UNAIDS guidelines, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry is boosting its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. Toward the goal of zero new infections, the ministry is targeting at-risk groups, including housewives, sex workers, and men who have sex with men. Thailand logs roughly 10,850 new HIV infections annually. Of these patients: 33 percent are MSM; 28 percent are housewives who contracted the virus from their husband or regular sex partner; 10 percent are men who contracted the virus from their spouse; 10 percent are men who contracted it from sex workers; 9 percent are injection drug users. Seven percent of new infections are linked to casual sex.
Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said sex education is an important tool for stopping new infections. "For example, we have provided 16 to 30 hours of sex education to students each year," he said. In addition, ministry officials have upped the threshold for which antiretroviral treatment is recommended. ARVs used to be prescribed only after CD4 counts fell below 200; the figure is now 350. The government budget for free treatment has been boosted to baht 2.99 billion (US $99.5 million) this year, up from baht 2.7 billion (US $89.6 million) in 2010. "We have also provided free treatment to alien workers suffering from AIDS," said Jurin.
"To ensure zero discrimination, we don’t allow employers to subject their employees to HIV blood tests before recruitment," the minister noted. Free, twice-yearly HIV testing is available to every Thai through the government’s health care programs.
April 29-2011 – AP
Lesbian Chic: Gay women in Thailand gradually push boundaries, find space for their lifestyle
by Jocelyn Gecker, The Associated Press
Bangkok — When she initially pitched the idea for Thailand’s first lesbian movie, it was quickly shot down. Producers called the premise distasteful and said movie viewers would find the story line disgusting. After scrounging together funds for five years, director Saratsawadee Wongsomphet released "Yes or No" on an independent label to considerable acclaim.
The film’s recent success in outwardly tolerant but traditional-minded Thailand is part of a growing acceptance of lesbians under the influence of the Internet and fashion trends. These emboldened lesbians are not using Western-style activism. They are quietly pushing boundaries to find space for their lifestyle, harnassing pop culture and introducing a Thai variation of Lesbian Chic. "It would have been risky to make this movie five years ago," Saratsawadee said about her directorial debut. "Now people are daring to express themselves."
Women in this Southeast Asian country are expected to be gentle, polite, even demure, and gay women in Thailand traditionally have been more discreet than gay men, but that is visibly changing. Thai newsstands now carry "Tom Act," the country’s first lesbian lifestyles magazine. A popular new clothing store in Bangkok touts itself as the first for "Tomboys," the Thai term for the more conspicuous members of the lesbian community who act and dress like men. Pop charts include hit singles from Thailand’s first openly gay female singer, a waifish, androgynously coifed 22-year-old known as Zee who is typically described as "handsome."
Thailand’s freewheeling, anything-goes reputation has served its tourism industry well, but Thai society is far more conservative than its tourist sex shows and transgender beauty pageants suggest. Movies are censored for morality, women are often too modest to wear bathing suits on the beach, abortion is illegal and the government regularly censors websites deemed immoral. When it comes to homosexuality, Thailand is ambivalent but tolerant: Bangkok is known as gay-friendly but politicians and high-profile public figures stick to an unstated "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy of keeping their homosexuality hidden.
Concerns about offending Thai society prompted Saratsawadee to delicately depict the sole love scene between her leading ladies, a pair of college roommates, with a brief, fully clothed kiss. "I was afraid nobody would want to see it," said the 38-year-old, who is gay and has worked in the film industry for years, always wanting to do a film showing that lesbians are not "weirdoes" but regular people. "I was afraid it would be censored, or would never be shown. I was afraid people would say it sends a bad message," she said.
April 2011 – To Globalgayz.com
Notice of book publishing: ‘Queer Bangkok–21st Century Markets, Media, and Rights"
Edited by Peter A. Jackson
Queer Asia Series – 320 pp.
Hardback ISBN 978-988-8083-04-6 HK$395 / US$50.00
Paperback ISBN 978-988-8083-05-3 HK$195 / US$25.00
"The myriad faces of Thai gender/sexuality culture have been an attraction for both pleasure-seekers and researchers/scholars/activists. Exploring the rapidly changing LGBT cultures and Thai queer identities, the essays collected here provide insightful analyses of historical continuities as well as developing variations within the highly complex erotic/economic texture of Thai society."
Josephine Ho, National Central University, Taiwan
In the book:
– Analyses the roles of the market and media — especially cinema and the Internet — in the transformations of Thailand’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) cultures.
– Considers the ambiguous consequences that the growing commodification and mediatization of queer lives have had for LGBT rights in Thailand.
– Traces Bangkok’s emergence as a central focus of an expanding regional network linking gay, lesbian, and transgender communities in other East and Southeast Asian societies.
Peter A. Jackson is professor of Thai cultural studies in the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.
6 May 2011 – LGBT Asylum News
In Southeast Asia, no longer silence on LGBT issues
by Dr. Jason Abbott
Last week 66 young boys in the conservative largely Muslim state of Terengganu, Malaysia, were sent to a special ‘re-education’ camp for displaying signs of effeminacy which if left ‘unchecked’, state official argued, could “reach the point of no return”. In other words they could ‘become’ gay or transsexual. While the women’s minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, criticized this move, neither the state government nor the Federal government has yet acted to do anything about this. But we should not be either shocked or surprised since gay rights in Malaysia are largely non-existent. Only a month earlier for example, Malaysian radio stations chose to deliberately ‘garble’ the line, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian or transgendered life, I’m on the right track, baby” in the Lady Gaga song “Born this Way” for fear of being fined by the government for breaking rules on ‘good taste… decency.. [or for being] “offensive to public feeling”.
Indeed as the current trial of the opposition leader, and former deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim visibly demonstrates, the country’s religious and political elite continue to regard homosexuality as a morally repugnant way of life. Thus in Anwar’s case putting him on trial for sodomy (which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison) has proven a ‘convenient’ and sadly rational tactic by the government to destroy his political career and tarnish his public image. But Malaysia is by no-means on it’s own in the region in its staunchly conservative stance. When it comes to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights, Southeast Asia is found severely wanting.
While Thailand might be infamous for its transsexual ‘lady boys’, same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption remain illegal, and there are no anti-discrimination laws nor laws concerning gender and identity expression. Arguably the most gay-friendly country in Southeast Asia (perhaps surprisingly given that it is overwhelmingly Catholic) is The Philippines, where same-sex adoption is permitted and since 2009 openly gay men and women have been allowed to serve in the military. However even here anti-discrimination law is largely absent nationally, while same-sex marriages or civil partnerships are not officially recognized. And yet Thailand, Cambodia and The Philippines are in a veritable league of their own compared to the rest of the region. In Burma, Brunei, and Malaysia homosexuality remains illegal with harsh prison sentences the normal punishment; none of the ten Southeast Asian countries recognize neither same-sex marriages or partnerships; only two allow same-sex adoption (Cambodia and The Philippines); three allow gay men or women to serve in the military (The Philippines, Thailand and Singapore) and none have passed anti-discrimination laws.
To defend this appalling track record, arguments have been made about ‘cultural and spiritual pollution’ from the decadent (sic) West, and about the incompatibility of homosexuality with the teachings of Islam and other religions. In most cases the opposition is pure bigotry and drawn from the view that regards LGBTs as nothing more than deviant ‘life-style’ choices. The head of Malaysia’s controversial Islamic Affairs department in an interview with Time magazine in 2000 epitomized this view when he remarked that homosexuality “is a crime worse than murder”. When asked if it was wrong for two people of the same sex to love each other he rebuked the questioner replying, “Love? How can men have sex with men? God did not make them this way. This is all Western influence”.
In even starker terms former Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahathir Mohamad warned in a national day speech in 2003 that “if there are any homosexuals in Malaysia they had better mend their ways.” In the same speech he also criticized the West saying that, “they are very angry — especially their reporters, many of whom are homos — when we take legal action against these practices.” But it is not simply Malaysia where such views remain widespread. For example, a crowd of extremists shut down the 4th International Lesbian and Gay Association Asia conference that was supposed to take place in Surabaya, Indonesia between 26th and 28th March 2010. In addition all 150 participants had to evacuate the conference hotel.
May 17, 2011 – IGLHRC
The Courage Unfolds Campaign
The Courage Unfolds Campaign calls for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to be protected by law, respected by society, and accepted by family. It is a call for the use of the Yogyakarta Principles as a tool to ensure the respect, protection and promotion by governments of the human rights of all people – including LGBT people. This set of international legal principles addresses the application of international law to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
To achieve this goal, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is asking activists, LGBT groups, human rights defenders, and concerned citizens to join the campaign. As central to this campaign, IGLHRC’s Asia Program has produced a documentary film – Courage Unfolds – highlighting the issues faced by LGBT people in Asia and how the Yogyakarta Principles are a relevant and effective tool that LGBT activists can use in their advocacy for human rights.
Learn: Learn more about the Yogyakarta Principles and LGBT activism in Asia by watching the Courage Unfolds documentary
Share: Tell your friends and community about this Campaign and how they can join you. Share your actions with us and others on IGLHRC’s Courage Unfolds Map.
Act: Screen Courage Unfolds, hold a rally, a training or a community event, write about using the Yogyakarta Principles, or petition your government to address violence and discrimination against LGBT people.
June 26, 2011 – Cambodia Out Website
CambodiaOut Website Expands
CambodiaOut is a Gay and Lesbian community based website. It is designed to provide information about the vibrant gay community in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Due to many requests we have recently added the The Republic of Laos, Kingdom of Thailand and The Republic of Viet Nam to our website. We try to provide a service to the Asian and expat LGBT community, as well as to the tourists that are visiting here.
We try our best to keep up with all the changes in venues throughout Southeast Asia, if you know of any new venues or those that may have closed down, please let us know. If you have any events, posters or photo’s, please send them to us, we will be happy to post them.
30 June 2011 – IRIN Plus News
Cultural mainstreaming leaves MSM at high HIV risk
Bangkok(PlusNews) – Gay rights activists in Thailand say a unique combination of muted discrimination and cultural mainstreaming of the gay and transgender community is to blame for a dangerous lack of knowledge about HIV among gay and transgender persons, especially the youth. "There are no discrimination laws here against gay people, so a young gay Thai may feel like, ‘My life is free, I can do anything I want,’ when in reality, most gay people here live a double life, both with a straight male identity and with a gay identity," said Narupon Duangwises, a cultural anthropologist who works as a consultant with Bangkok Rainbow, an NGO that supports the gay community.
Teenagers who identify as gay and transgender seamlessly blend with Bangkok’s mainstream youth culture, spending their days at the city’s popular, glitzy malls. At home, however, many find entertainment on the video chat service CamFrog, which they use to meet other young gay Thais, and sometimes as a platform to sell or buy sexual services. "Young people cannot go to bars, so they go on CamFrog. They don’t know about HIV, because they don’t learn [about it] in school," Nikorn Arthit, president of Bangkok Rainbow, which has begun an online HIV-educational campaign through CamFrog. "They are excited to be meeting people but they don’t know how to protect themselves."
CamFrog says it has more than 30 million users, mainly in Asia. Duangwises expressed concern that not enough was being done to address the HIV needs of young gay people. "The gay organizations don’t know what has happened with this health situation. The community is not well organized," he said. "We think HIV infections may be much higher than we realize. We need to instil a sense of social responsibility among gay Thais. We can’t just be passing out condoms."
Thai health workers say a similar lack of knowledge is also caused by the disparity between the levels of HIV programming for male and female sex workers. According to Noi Apisuk, director of the Empower Foundation, an NGO for sex workers, Bangkok’s female sex workers know all about safe sex and can always find multiple sizes of condoms at Empower’s office. Nicha Jitjang, programme officer for the male and transgender sex worker rights’ group Service Workers In Group, or SWING, estimates that most seasoned male and transgender sex workers know to use a condom when engaging in sexual activity, but the same cannot be said for newbies.
Her colleague, Nanokporn Sukprasert, a transgender former sex worker, remembers first learning about HIV two or three years after she began working at a bar. "I sometimes used condoms and I sometimes didn’t use them," she said. "I didn’t know about HIV and STIs [sexually transmitted infections]; I saw many of my friends get HIV, but I thought they were different because they were MSM."
"We focus now on talking with new people who come every day and think they can get HIV from sharing food or from swimming in the same pool," she explained. "It’s a perspective we are trying to change. Young people cannot go to bars so they go on CamFrog. They do not know about HIV, because they do not learn [about it] in school”
SWING regularly connects with more than 5,000 male and transgender sex workers. On a typical night, Sukprasert will visit about 50 bars, dropping off boxes of condoms for male and transgender sex workers; if a bar is missed out, the owner may telephone, complaining that his employees are waiting. "We give them knowledge, condoms and lubricants every day – one box of condoms per bar and people share with their friends," she said. "In the past they didn’t want to talk about HIV with us because it is a personal issue, but now people know us and they are more open."
Approximately 16.7 percent of Thai male sex workers were found to be HIV positive in 2010, according to Bangkok Rainbow, compared with 3 percent of Thailand’s estimated 200,000 female sex workers known to be living with HIV, according to Apisuk. An estimated 1.3 percent of Thai adults aged 15 and older are HIV-positive, according to UNAIDS.
2011 July 25 – PubMed.gov
HIV-related risk behaviors among kathoey (male-to-female transgender) sex workers in Bangkok, Thailand.
by Nemoto T, Iwamoto M, Perngparn U, Areesantichai C, Kamitani E, Sakata M. – a Public Health Institute , Oakland , CA , USA.
Based on combined methods, this study investigated substance use and HIV risk behaviors among kathoey sex workers (KSWs) in Bangkok, Thailand. The study found that only half of the KSW participants reported having been tested for HIV, and that except for one participant, all others had not seen health care providers in the past 12 months. About one third of the participants reported having engaged in unprotected anal sex with customers in the past six months. Almost all participants reported alcohol use, as well as having had sex with customers under the influence of alcohol. The prevalence of marijuana and ecstasy use in the past 12 months was high (32 and 36%, respectively); as was for ketamine (20%) and non-injecting methamphetamine (yaba) use (10%). A multiple regression analysis showed that the participants who were post-operative status, had used illicit drugs, or had been abused by their father and brothers were less likely to use condoms for anal sex with customers.
Three quarters of the participants sent money to their families and 35% of the participants expressed their willingness to engage in unsafe sex when customers offer extra money. The qualitative interviews revealed that many identified as girl or kathoey in early age and had been exposed to transphobia and violence from father and brothers. Some reported support for gender transition from their mothers. More than half of the participants currently had difficulties in living as kathoey, such as challenges in the job market and relationship with family members. Family obligation for sending money and the Buddhist concept of karma were discussed in relation to risk behaviors among KSWs. The study provided implications for facilitating HIV testing and developing future HIV prevention intervention programs for KSWs in Thailand.
09 August 2011 – Pattaya Mail
Unsafe sex is still the main cause of HIV/AIDS
According to doctors’ data analysis, unsafe sex is still the main cause of HIV/AIDS while people in the employment sector have become the risk group. The study was conducted last year among 130,000 people, mainly those getting donated blood, drug users through injection, pregnant women, male patients with sexually transmitted diseases, and sex workers in eight provinces. The data collection shows that HIV/AIDS infection in male prostitutes represents 21 per cent of all the infected people. That means, one in five male prostitutes has HIV/AIDS. Infection among male prostitutes under 20 years is the highest, representing 15 percent.
Infection among people moonlighting as sex workers is increasing while that among professional sex workers is in a downward trend. Seventy-five percent of AIDS patients are aged between 20 and 44. People in the employment sector are the risk group. More than 45 percent of them have HIV. Four per cent of them are housewives. Ranong is found to have the highest number of HIV/AIDS infected people, followed by Bangkok. Since the data collection began in 1984, the virus has infected nearly 380,000 people. Ninety thousand of them died. Unprotected sex is found to be the major cause of infection.
To prevent HIV/AIDS, doctors advise men to use condoms. Those wanting to get an HIV test can seek free medical service at public hospitals.
August 10, 2011 – The Nation
Court shoots down anti-gay rule
by Janjira Jarusupawat – The Nation
Gay rights advocate Natee Teerarotchanapong yesterday praised the Chiang Mai Administrative Court’s ruling, which said it was unlawful for the Nakhon Chiang Mai Municipality to ban gay people and transvestites from appearing on the 2010 Loy Krathong Festival’s floats, based upon new standards earlier enacted to assist Chiang Mai in becoming a model city without discrimination or unlawful issuance of regulations.
The court read the verdict at 9.30am in response to the lawsuit filed against the Chiang Mai Mayor. The plaintiff, Natee, secretary of the Chiang Mai Araya Group, claimed the regulation – stating that presenters on competing Loy Krathong floats must be ladies or gentlemen or the floats would not be included in the competition – in effect barred gay people and transvestites from participating and violated the constitution. The court ruled that the criteria, especially regarding the parade participants’ sexual orientations, was unlawful. It was also noted that the regulation, which was limited to the particular parade contest, ended on November 22, 2010, before the court ruling, so there was no need for the court to prohibit the rule banning gays from floats.
Feeling pleased with the verdict, Natee said those affected by social discrimination – not only those with gender diversity – had rights and could seek justice. She added that the court’s ruling was a positive sign and urged state offices to cease all forms of discrimination.
September 08, 2011 – Asia One
Online campaign to cut HIV/Aids among gay men: Thailand
The Nation/Asia News Network
In a bid to prevent HIV/Aids among homosexual men, the Thai Red Cross Society Aids research centre, the Disease Control Department, and other groups have joined forces to launch Asean’s first online "edutainment" health campaign for homosexual men at www.adamslove.org. Centre director Praphan Phanuphak told a press conference on Tuesday that, out of some 500,000-600,000 people living with HIV/Aids in Thailand, about 100,000 were homosexual males.
In Bangkok alone, about three in 10 homosexual men – or 29.1 per cent – were HIV/Aids patients. In the smaller cities about 10 per cent of homosexual men were living with HIV/Aids. He said the high prevalence was because there was no clear system of HIV-screening, citing that an anonymous clinic conducted HIV tests on about 50 people a day and found about 10 to be HIV-positive – 8-9 of whom were homosexual men.
Praphan said the groups had launched this campaign to let gay men to chat, access useful information and feel encouraged to get HIV-screening tests about 2-3 times a year. This would help reduce the number of Aids patients because doctors could prescribe them with anti-viral medicines in time, cutting the transmission rate to others by 90 per cent.
14 September, 11 – BMJ Group Blogs
Bob Roehr: Methamphetamine use drives HIV infections among gay Thais
by BMJ Group
One in 10 gay and bisexual men aged 18 to 21 became infected with HIV during their first year of enrollment in a cohort study in Bangkok. The rate of new infections slows down a bit after that, in part because those most likely to become infected already are. Fully 1 in 3 of them carry the virus by the time they reach 30. “From 18 to 21 it has been a slaughterhouse,” says Frits van Griensven, shaking his head in dismay. “They are getting the best prevention information possible, counselling every four months, condoms and lubricants. They know the facts of incidence of new infections.” And yet the infections continue to occur, “It is something that we cannot control with behavioural interventions.”
Van Griensven runs what is believed to be the only HIV prevention clinic in all of Asia that was created to serve men who have sex with men. This is despite the fact that in Asia, that group is 18.7 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population. “It’s my opinion that the epidemic in young men is driven by methamphetamines – crystal ice. I don’t know what to do about it,” he says. He is not alone. The drug has been a major factor in the spread of HIV among gay men in the US and Europe, though its use seems to be receding because of educational campaigns and because other drugs have become more chic to use.
Rather than adopt a harm reduction approach, the Thai government has taken the approach favoured by most governments, namely a “war on drugs,” and it is having the same lack of success. The day after our conversation the Bangkok Post reported a billion baht drug bust near the city of Chiang Rai when police stopped a pickup truck for a routine inspection and the driver fled. Left behind were 2.46 million pills of speed (methamphetamine), 95 kilograms of “ya ice,” a form of crystal methamphetamine, and 3.4 kg of heroin.
Ya ice is the drug of choice of most addicts, half of whom are between 15 and 24, said Naramon Chuangrungsi, director of the Narcotics Control Strategy Bureau. It is a purer form of meth, can be absorbed by the body more quickly, and many users mistakenly believe that it is safer than methamphetamine…
Read entire article
17 September 2010 – Fridae
SOGI takes center stage at Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions – Part 1
by Grace Poore, IGLHRC
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in Asia and the Pacific Islands experience extra-judicial killings, torture, violence and rape, as well as discrimination in employment, education, housing and health services. – Note: [SOGI is an abbreviation for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity]
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in Asia and the Pacific Islands experience extra-judicial killings, torture, violence and rape, as well as discrimination in employment, education, housing and health services. These are the preliminary findings of the Advisory Council of Jurists (ACJ) of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) that met August 3-5, 2010 in Bali, Indonesia. This independent body of legal experts has found that at least 17 API governments (1) have failed to provide protections for LGBT people because their national laws, policies and practices are inconsistent with international human rights law.
In response to these realities for LGBT people in the region, the APF has begun the process of addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as a legitimate human rights issue requiring the attention of its member institutions that are National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). The fact that protecting the human rights of LGBT people has captured the attention and become a focus for the APF is pleasantly surprising. Surprising because, only three countries in the region have laws providing explicit protection of LGBT human rights (2), while nineteen countries still have laws that criminalize consensual homosexual relations (3). Many of the NHRIs that are members of the APF have never discussed – let alone considered – sexual orientation and gender identity as a human-rights issue. In fact, many state officials in the region view non-heteronormative sexual orientation and gender identity as anti-religious and counter cultural.
Read complete article here
7 September 2010 – Fridae
SOGI takes center stage at Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions – Part 2
by Grace Poore, IGLHRC
At least 17 Asia Pacific governments fail to provide protections for LGBT people because their national laws, policies and practices which are inconsistent with international human rights law.
The findings and recommendations of the Advisory Council of Jurists presented to the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) during its August 2010 meeting in Bali, Indonesia were significant. As I shared in the first part of this review, it was a major achievement for this independent body of legal experts to conclude that at least 17 API governments have failed to provide protections for LGBT people because their national laws, policies and practices are inconsistent with international human rights law. In response the ACJ is recommending that national human rights institutions take on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and ensure the compliance of national laws and policies with international human rights protections for LGBT people in a way that involves the participation of LGBT groups and individuals.
For me, so much rides on the NHRIs effectively implementing the ACJ recommendations since the API region lacks a regional human rights monitoring entity (even the credibility of the newly-formed ASEAN Commission on Human Rights (ACHR) is uncertain). In addition, access to international human rights entities such as the United Nations is limited, not only because the UN is so far away, but also because people whose rights are being violated, have limited access to these avenues for redress – assuming redress is possible. However, since the APF and the ACJ have no enforcement mechanism or power, it is unclear what will happen if these recommendations are not implemented – for instance, in the name of religion or cultural values. Since there is no centrally imposed penalty or peer pressure for weak or non-implementation of international human-rights standards, how will disregard for the ACJ recommendations be addressed in a productive way?
The independence of the national human rights institutions is critically important. According to the Paris Principles, (9) which serve as criteria for the effectiveness of NHRIs, national institutions should have a clearly defined but broad-based mandate defined by legislative decree or the constitution. They must remain independent from government, have membership that reflects the composition of society, work in close cooperation with civil society and NGOs, and be adequately resourced by the state to carry out their work as NHRIs. But, according to Emerlynne Gill, coordinator of the ANNI Network, which monitors the performance of NHRIs in Asia, in most Asian countries members of NHRIs are chosen either only by the President, the Prime Minister, or by “a select group of like-minded people, which often results in appointments that are not based on human rights expertise.” Gill says that many NHRIs in the region lack pluralism in their composition and transparency in the selection process, which she feels are “two pivotal elements for ensuring the independence and effectiveness of NHRIs [while] minimizing the danger of neglecting less mainstream issues which may be affecting groups considered to be minorities in the country.”
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28 September 2011 – Fridae
Queer Bangkok: 21st Century Markets, Media and Rights
by Nigel Collett
In this new collection, Peter A. Jackson brings together experts including veteran Singapore gay activist Alex Au, and prominent academics Professor Douglas Sanders, Megan Sinnot and Dr Sam Winter, to piece together a picture of how Thailand’s politics, economics, art, society and views of sex affect the LGBT people who actually live there as opposed to just pass through
Queer Bangkok: 21st Century Markets, Media and Rights
Edited by Peter A. Jackson
The Fifth Volume in the Queer Asia Series, co-published by the Hong Kong University Press and Silkworm Books of Thailand, 2011
Winner of the 2011 Ruth Benedict Book Prize
Bangkok and sex are two words that have been entwined in the popular imagination since the Victorians ‘discovered’ Siam. At its height in the sixties, the Vietnam War brought American servicemen to Thailand by the hundreds of thousand to help found its commercial sex industry. The economic boom times that have (inconsistently) enriched the East since then have long-ago widened the source of sex-tourists that came initially from Europe and America to include Asian countries like Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. People come to Bangkok now from everywhere in the Pacific Rim. All this has served to reinforce the association of Thailand with sexual paradise. Almost everyone, even if they can’t afford to, dreams of going to Thailand to get laid.
I apologise immediately to any Thai readers and other lovers of the country if I offend by offering this crude approximation of the attractions of the country. There is, of course, very much more to Thailand than I describe; many come to Thailand for the other extraordinarily beautiful things that are found there. But what you are reading is, after all, a Fridae column, so I shall remain unashamed of confining my introductory remarks about Thailand to the area of sex. I am ashamed, though, in reading the collection of essays in Queer Bangkok, to realise how ignorant I have been up till now of almost every aspect of sex, sexuality and gender in the country. Peter Jackson and the authors he features make it plain that even the scrapings of ‘knowledge’ picked up in Bangkok’s Silom Road by farangs (foreigners) such as I fear I must be, are likely to be embarrassingly misleading. Read the collection of essays, many of them superlatively written, that Jackson has assembled here and see if your understanding has been any better than mine!
Jackson is a member of the Editorial Collective behind the ground-breaking Queer Asia series published by Hong Kong University Press, of which this book is the fifth (this one uniquely published jointly with Silkworm Books of Thailand; apologies are due here to the Press as our recent review of Falling Into the Lesbi World wrongly credited that volume – actually the sixth – with being fifth in the series). Jackson is a Professor at the Australian National University and a recognised expert on Thailand; he was one of the organisers of the 1st International Conference of Asian LGBT Studies in Bangkok in 2005, which this reviewer was lucky enough to attend. He is also a fine writer: clear, succinct, incisive and free of the mind-numbing jargon that disfigures the writings of so many queer theorists (one has to hope his example will be at least one foreign habit Asian queer studies will copy!)…
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07 October, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
UN Member States Call on Thailand and Trinidad & Tobago to Protect Sexual Rights
During the twelfth session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, the human rights records of Thailand and Trinidad and Tobago were reviewed and assessed by member states of the United Nations. The UPR is a process of the UN system whereby all 192 countries are questioned by their peers from other countries on their human rights record. Countries then make recommendations on how a State under Review’s human rights record could be improved to better comply with international human rights standards.
The UPR provides a unique opportunity for sexual rights advocates to engage with the UN system, their government and other countries to highlight their experiences of human rights violations in an international forum and to follow-up on the recommendations made by States in order to improve the policies and laws that restrict sexual rights in their country.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Member Associations of Thailand and Trinidad and Tobago – Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT) and Family Planning Association of Trinidad & Tobago (FPATT) – together with the Sexual Rights Initiative, submitted information to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2011 regarding the serious human rights violations related to sexual rights in the two countries. These submissions, along with their intensive advocacy efforts at the UN in Geneva over the past six weeks, resulted in very strong recommendations from UN member states on a wide variety of sexual rights issues.
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Complete PDF here
14 November, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
A message to all members of Volunteer Positive Community
Ten international volunteers will make history this January, 2012, as they become the inaugural team of people living with HIV serving openly as international volunteers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Each volunteer will work at local NGO’s guided by local leaders and supported by Volunteer Positive staff. This international group of history makers is composed of eight Americans, one Canadian, and one Malaysian ranging in age from 34 to 65 and are overwhelmingly from the LGBT community. They will be working with children orphaned by HIV, sex workers, at risk youth, HIV+ support groups, the local Human Rights and LGBT Center, Arts organizations, refugees, and Buddhist Monks. The goal of Volunteer Positive is to fight stigma through creating a counter narrative of what it is like to live with HIV, and to visibly demonstrate that the strength and agency of people living with the virus can be leveraged to help others, build community, create greater acceptance and lessen stigma.
Three weeks ago, Volunteer Positive‘s Executive Director, Carlton Rounds, hosted a dinner for the organization’s NGO partners in Chiang Mai and was overwhelmed with the support received on behalf of the volunteers by this remarkable community. During this dinner Volunteer Positive’s local program coordinator was introduced, a woman who is herself living with HIV and a regional expert and activist from the Northern Thailand Network of People Living with AIDS. Additionally, it was also shared that Volunteer Positive is being recognized by the US Consul General in Chiang Mai as improving US/Thai relations and the US State Department for its efforts to include HIV+ people in the field of international service and diplomacy.
Volunteer Positive signals a change in the thinking and doing of people living with HIV. We are strong, capable, and talented and it is our time to contribute to decreasing stigma though relationship building, public service, and the power of visibility. It is our time to claim our right as change agents, experts, and survivors who have not just a place in the future, but a right to shape that future for ourselves and for others affected by HIV.
For more information contact www.volunteerpositive.org to learn of our future program dates for Thailand and our future program sites in Africa and Latin America.