January 6, 2009 – Fridae.com
Fire in Bangkok gay sauna kills patron
by News Editor
One man was killed and 36 others injured as a massive blaze swept through a shopping and residential complex in Bangkok’s Chinatown district on Sunday night, just days after a fire at a nightclub in the Thai capital claimed dozens. A 45-year-old man was killed in fire that razed through a popular sauna in Sua Pa Plaza on Bangkok’s Charoen Krung road in Pom Prab district. Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper reported that the victim – identified by the police as Sanguan Saenkaew – was found by rescue workers on the seventh floor of the building early Monday morning. He is believed to be a patron of GSM Sauna at the time of the fire. Reports say about 60 fire engines fought the blaze which took hours to put out.
The blaze was reported to have started at about 8.30pm on Sunday night. Some 100 people were evacuated from the nine-storey building via two firetruck ladders and a helicopter. The sauna – said to be popular among locals and travelers from Hong Kong and Taiwan – also operated a massage parlour on the fourth floor and guesthouse on the sixth floor. The incident follows a fire that killed at least 64 partygoers at Santika, an upscale Bangkok nightclub which was full to its 1,000-person capacity on New Year’s Eve.
The country’s building and fire code standards has been called into question as police revealed that Santika had been refused a licence as an "entertainment venue" since 2004 due to safety concerns but it remained legally open as a restaurant while appealing that decision. It has also emerged that the club had no emergency lighting or sprinkler system, had only one door for entry and exit known to patrons and there were bars on the windows. A Singaporean, who was in the Thai capital over the New Year’s Eve holidays and saw the fire engines on the streets, told Fridae that he shudders to consider a similar fate befalling Silom Soi 2 or 4 – well known clusters of crowded gay bars and clubs located on narrow dead-end lanes.
"It’s the main reason why I never go to DJ Station anymore and haven’t been for the last five years," said the 30-something businessman who prefers not to be named. "Fire safety codes are evidently not enforced at many venues, including many clubs, bars and saunas frequented by the gay community. Patrons should exercise caution and voice their concerns to the staff and management of such establishments."
Another commented on a gay news list: "Fire safety and precautions in many of the 30 or so gay saunas in BKK are crappy. I even don’t know how to get out of the darkroom in a fire."
18 February 2009 – Fridae.com
Veteran gay activist slams Chiang Mai’s second pride parade
by Vitaya SaengAroon
No stranger to controversy, prominent gay activist Nathee Teerarojanapong has publicly opposed – in the media and a televised debate – Chiang Mai’s second pride parade happening this weekend. Fridae’s Bangkok correspondent Vitaya SaengAroon reports.
Efforts to stage a gay pride parade in Chiang Mai, the northern capital city of Thailand, this weekend has met with strong opposition from a prominent Bangkok gay activist – a move that has shocked and angered the gay community in both cities. Natee Teerarojanapong, a well-known advocate of gay rights and HIV/AIDS issues, lodged complaints and lobbied local authorities to ban the march, saying it will "encourage" youngsters to become katoey (a local term for transgender) and that the parade is not appropriate with discreet Chiang Mai tradition, among a series of accusations.
The gay pride parade in Chiang Mai is organised by Mplus, Chiang Mai’s largest HIV/AIDS group, to be held on Saturday, Feb 21, in a famous tourist district. Pongthorn Chanleun, a scholar on gender and sexuality and head of Chiang Mai Gay Pride Committee, said he was surprised with Natee’s opposition despite the fact that a similar parade was already held last year in Chiang Mai. "Early last year the parade was held in tandem with a regional conference by the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA) in Chiang Mai and featured gay rights messages promoted by marchers who are gay rights activists from around the region. We’re well received," said Pongthorn who is also the director of Mplus Chiang Mai.
Among other accusations Natee made to the local national press are that he is worried the gay pride would undermine the local ‘Lanna’ tradition of Chiang Mai with inappropriate dress, acts and activities; and might turn Chiang Mai into "a symbol of gays."
"I heard that the parade by a gay group in the area of Night Bazaar would also feature an activity such as a competition to use condoms for decoration as a pre-event before other activities. Chiang Mai is a cultural city. I’m concerned that the parade will tarnish the image of Chiang Mai and the country (as) Chiang Mai might be viewed as a symbol of gays," said Natee, head of Gay Politics Group. He had notably marched in a gay pride parade along Silom Road in Bangkok several years ago.
Natee’s flamboyance style and outspoken personality drew a lot of attention from local media. On one of the most-watched debate talk shows on TV earlier this week, Natee and Pongthorn were pitted against each other. After Ponthorn’s explanation that the marchers in the gay pride parade will be dressed up with local costumes, unlike those styles of other gay pride marches in certain cities and he stressed that the pride was aimed at promoting tolerance as well as campaigning for HIV/AIDS issues to the local people. Natee brought up another issue that left many gay activists in disbelief.
"Since the parade will stage a costume contest by transgenders and the parade will have transgendered marchers in colorful dress, I’m afraid such images will appeal to the youngsters and make them want to become transgenders," he said during the televised debate. He added that any country who has a lot of beauty queens, the youths will be also encouraged to become beauty queens. The debate became heated when Natee raised another issue that the parade organiser announced to accept applicants as young as 15 years old.
"A youngster aged as young as 15 years old lacks of consciousness. Such contest will encourage him to want to imitate and become transgender," Natee said. "How can you draw such influence on the young people? The age range is generally accepted in general straight youths contest," Ponthorn said. “How can you recruit people to become transgender?” Pongthorn rebutted, adding that the costume contest by transgenders was meant as a communication tool and feature sexual diversity and openness of society.
In March last year, Natee led a group of activists and concerned parents to petition Thailand’s Medical Council and the government urging stricter controls on private clinics that perform castration on male teenagers who hope for the procedure to stop their bodies from developing masculine characteristics. Castration costs as little as 4,000 baht (S$180), a small fraction of the total cost of gender reassignment surgery. Under current laws, males seeking to undergo castration must be 18 and above.
"I want clinics to stop performing the operations regardless of whether they get parental consent. They are too young, and this procedure could cause side effects later in life," he was quoted as saying. Ponthorn insisted that the parade will continue to be organised this Saturday and hopes to attract as many participants as they can. "We expect to have more than 500 marchers this Saturday. I do believe that the local Chiang Mai communities will give us support and make differences between facts and illusions," Ponthorn said.
Natee, made himself known back in 1980s as the very first activist who was openly gay when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was on the rise. He received international awards and also donations from many organisations for his efforts against HIV. He maintained a very low profile for years for unknown reasons and resurfaced several years ago as the head of the Gay Political Group of Thailand.
In 2005, he attacked Bangkok’s 1st International Conference of Asian Queer Studies which drew participants from more than 20 countries, calling for a ban on the conference since the conference organiser handed out condoms to the participants. About the same time, the 50-year-old activist notably led a campaign which called on the government to amend the military regulations to stop labeling gay and transgender conscripts as suffering from a “severe psychological disorder” before exempting them from duty. He argues that the label has no medical justification and stigmatises gay men and transgender for the rest of their life as military records are required at job interviews and loan applications.
In 2006, Natee ran for a senate seat for Bangkok, but was defeated. In one of TV talk shows, he announced that he wanted to be a prime minister. Earlier this year, he made headlines by raising an issue regarding homosexuals and transgenders in Buddhist monasteries when some temples found having monks and novices having sexual relations with male sex workers, adjusted their monk robes to be more fashionable, and wore make-up. The 2nd Chiangmai Pride Parade will be held on Saturday, Feb 21, departing Buddhasathan at 7pm towards Tawan Plaza @ Square. The parade will culminate in a party at Tawan Trendy Mall near Pantip Plaza. For more info, click onto http://www.chiangmaigaypride.com.
23 February 2009 – Fridae.com
Chiang Mai gay pride parade called off
Organisers of what was to be Chiang Mai’s second gay pride parade called off the event late Saturday evening following a confrontation with protesters. Organisers of what was to be Chiang Mai’s second gay pride parade called off the event late Saturday evening following a confrontation with some 30 red-shirted protesters identified by the Nation newspaper as "Rak Chiang Mai 51." The group is said to be loyalists of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for whom Chiang Mai is his home city. According to the Thai Nation newspaper, the protesters launched verbal attacks through a megaphone saying the event tarnished the city’s reputation. They also reacted angrily to remarks made by the organisers that the "Rak Chiang Mai 51" group was acting like thugs.
Fearing violence, the organisers Mplus, Chiang Mai’s largest HIV/AIDS group, called the march which was to start from Buddha-sathan through Night Bazaar before ending at the Tawan Trendy Mall. The confrontation reportedly lasted an hour before the organisers agreed to dismantle the stage and cancel the activities in the area. The report noted that 150 policemen had been mobilised for the parade. Petchawat Wattanapongsirikul, a leading member of the "Rak Chiang Mai 51" group was quoting as saying in the report that said local residents disagreed with the parade as it was against the old city’s culture and could tarnish its image. He added that Phuket or Pattaya, which were tourist entertainment cities, would be more suitable to host such events.
"Chiang Mai people cannot accept this and will stop the parade by all means, even violence," he said. Organisers did not respond to queries when contacted by Fridae on Sunday.
26 February 2009 – Bankok Post
Purple Pride On The Page – On-the-ropes gay mag industry fights for mainstream media acceptance
by Arusa Pisuthipan and Yingyong Un-Anongrak
The history of gay magazines in Thailand is full of stresses and struggles. And for Jay (not his real name), he has suffered pretty much the same strains. ”The first thing I stole in my life was a gay magazine,” confesses Jay, 26. ”I stole it out of curiosity to know what was inside and equally out of fear that others would realise that I am gay if I just walked in there and bought it.” That was the first and, fortunately, the only time Jay did something against the law. Back then he was only 17. But in Thai society, where sexual orientation is almost synonymous with social value, Jay is in fact not alone. When gay rights activist Natee Teerarojjanapongs bought his very first gay magazine, the young lad did not feel comfortable about it either.
”I had to buy it and read it discreetly,” recalls Natee, founder of the Gay Political Group of Thailand. ”But it [the magazine] made me realise that I am not the only person in this world who lives with this kind of sexual orientation.” The beginning of gay magazines in our Land of Smiles dates back to over three decades ago when they were first introduced into Thai gay society. According to Assoc Prof Peter Jackson, founder of the Thai Queer Resource Centre, gay magazines in Thailand were in fact born out of the social prejudice people have towards homosexuals.
”Both gay men and lesbians have usually had to encounter a lot of obstacles receiving messages from mainstream media because it is full of bias when it comes to discussing topics about homosexuality. When people with sexual diversity do not have a fair media channel to receive useful information, they have to start creating one by and for themselves,” explains Jackson, also a senior fellow in Thai history at the Australian National University’s Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. But the road for gay magazines in Thailand has never been a bed of roses because homosexuality is among the several subjects in society considered as taboo, making it unacceptable and unspeakable for the majority of people.
In Thai society where homosexuality is still somewhat considered taboo, gay magazines are usually hidden because gay men do not feel comfortable reading them in public. Like it or not, gay magazines are believed to be very sex-oriented and to encourage reckless and promiscuous sexual behaviour. They are also believed to have published mountains of sex-related content, not to mention nude pictures presenting provocative bodies of macho men. But on the other side of the coin, gay magazines in Thailand are, according to Natee, one effective way to promote HIV/Aids awareness.
As an HIV/Aids prevention advocate, Natee is of the opinion that gay magazines are successful in protecting Thai male homosexuals from contracting HIV/Aids because they provide information regarding the infection and preventative measures. ”Twenty years ago, we gay men regarded HIV/Aids as nothing but a killer. It was a horrible yet inevitable fact. Gay magazines however have changed this misbelief. Reading the magazines, we now know how to stay far away from the epidemic disease,” Natee notes. The gay rights activist also adds that in the view of the majority of male homosexuals, gay magazines are a saviour in the way that they help young men break free from the concept of patriarchy, in which sons are expected to marry a good woman, to be a family leader and be seen by their fathers as heir to their family linage.
Additionally, gay magazines also provide Thai male homosexuals with emotional relief. They function as an asylum for when gay men are pressured by family expectations or when are upset with their sexual orientation, life’s problems or any personal issues, the activist adds. Besides, the magazines show the possibility for a gay couple to live together in society as a family, as well as help to make this possibility a reality by running match-making or relationship-advice columns. ”It [a matchmaking column] is a place where a gay man can meet, and perhaps fall in love with another gay man. By this, we are sending a message to society that gay men can live happily as a couple without troubling anyone,” notes Natee.
”A lot of male homosexuals are particularly interested in love-advice columns in gay magazines and surprisingly a number of them _ I for one _ have benefitted from magazine match-makers,” Jay recalls with a giggle. Despite being hidden under the bed or in the closet, gay magazines are where male homophiles mirror their true identity, according to Prempreeda Pramoj na Ayutthaya, a transgenderer researcher. ”At home, gay magazines are usually hidden somewhere because those who buy them feel ashamed to bring them out and read them in public. ‘But the magazines also take up a role of presenting a clear-cut and concrete difference between gay men and katoeys [transgenderers], enabling male homosexuals to find their true gender identity in those magazines,” says Prempreeda, another coordinator at the Thai Queer Resource Centre.
Unfortunately, however, the future of gay magazines in Thailand does not look so promising. The widespread availability of the Internet, as well as the boom in online communication make the cyber world a more convenient, more appropriate and more open space where homosexuality-related content is welcomed and distributed at a lower cost. Danai Linjongrat from the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand says one of the reasons the gay magazine industry in Thailand has faced a social hindrance is because the concept of homosexuality has long been overpowered by a mainstream gender approach.
In Thailand, Danai continues, mainstream gender values have played a very significant role in dictating how the ideal man should be. It applauds men and women who behave according to the norm and thus discriminates, if not disdains, those who behave otherwise. Such is one of the most important threats to the growth of the gay magazine industry in Thailand, including but not limited to Saifon Ton Roong (The Rain and a Rainbow), a gay magazine created by a homosexual community with Danai as the editor-in-chief. ”A media channel for homosexuals in Thailand aims to give them a space free from social inequality. But they will never be widely accepted if most people still think of gender issues only as involving sex organs,” comments Danai.
Pongpeera Patpeerapong, editor of More than Man magazine, echoes the same sentiment. He strongly wishes that the public redefine their ”social values” and change their attitudes towards people with sexual diversity. ”I want gay magazines to break the down the wall that blocks people’s understanding and positive attitudes towards homosexuality in Thailand,” says the editor. Although the threat to the development of gay magazines in Thailand is obviously foreseen, a small group of people, especially the homosexuals themselves, still keep the faith about their future.
Virach Suwanwilaikul, Max Magazine editor, hopes that gay magazines will one day be accepted as a fair option for Thai gay men to access information about their everyday lives. ”Gay men are not special people. We do not want any extra privileges. What we want is rights as equal as everyone else in society,” Virach remarks. ”I think one word that best describes what we hope for in the future of gay magazines in Thailand is ‘Lepra’ _ liberty, equality, pride, rights and acceptance,” Natee concludes.
February 28th, 2009 – Peripheries
Mainstreaming HIV prevention in Thailand
Two important articles have appeared in The Bangkok Post newspaper since last week’s cancellation of the 2nd Chiang Mai Gay Pride Parade because a small group of red-shirted pro-Thaksin demonstrators objected to the event taking place in a public space. The first was an announcement by Pairote Boonsirikamchai, assistant secretary-general of the Medical Council of Thailand that under 18 now could receive a free HIV test and counselling at clinics without their parents’ consent.
This is definitively a step forward. By making counselling accessible to the most vulnerable people in society, that is teenagers who know very little about sex or HIV but will soon engage in sexual activity (if they have not already done so) can only contribute to decrease the risks of HIV transmission in the future. It will also contribute to reducing the stigma around getting tested for HIV.
The second was an article in The Bangkok Post on the history of Gay magazines in Thailand. Prof Peter Jackson, a senior fellow in Thai history at the Australian National University’s Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies and founder of the Thai Queer Resource Centre, explains that Thai Gay magazines were in fact born out of the social prejudice people have towards homosexuals.“Both gay men and lesbians have usually had to encounter a lot of obstacles receiving messages from mainstream media because it is full of bias when it comes to discussing topics about homosexuality. When people with sexual diversity do not have a fair media channel to receive useful information, they have to start creating one by and for themselves”
The story goes that the first gay magazine was born after a young student decided to insert a picture of a man instead of that of a women in a life style magazine that would regularly showcase a model in its central page. The reader’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive and the student decided to repeat the experience which finally led to the creation of the first magazine targeting men. Since then, and that was in the 70s, there has been a flurry of Thai “Gay” magazines. Most of them are now unavailable (hence the creation of the Thai Queer Resource Centre) and many could not and still can not be sold. The police would confiscate them since they are considered obscene»
Not short of imagination the Thai publishing industry has come up with a plethora of “fashion” magazines showcasing lightly dressed male models. Volume 30 of Stage featuring Pirawit Pandaeng» sold out in no time in Bangkok. These magazines fill the gap created by the absence of gay magazines that would provide a tribune and a source of information to a population who is most vulnerable to HIV infection in Thailand.
For Natee Teerarojjanapongs founder of the Gay Political Group of Thailand, “gay magazines are a saviour in the way that they help young men break free from the concept of patriarchy, in which sons are expected to marry a good woman, to be a family leader and be seen by their fathers as heir to their family linage.” Additionally, gay magazines also provide Thai male homosexuals with emotional relief. They function as an asylum for when gay men are pressured by family expectations or when are upset with their sexual orientation, life’s problems or any personal issues.”
Unfortunately, homosexuality is still somewhat considered taboo in Thai society despite what many travellers believe, and the future of gay publishing is far to be promising. Danai Linjongrat from the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand commented in The Bangkok Post that “A media channel for homosexuals in Thailand aims to give them a space free from social inequality. But they will never be widely accepted if most people still think of gender issues only as involving sex organs.”
The printed media is also seriously challenged by the Internet which provides a space for people to communicate and share their life’s experience and where censorship is more difficult to exercise (though the Thai ICT ministry is proud of blocking more than 30,000 websites which content is considering threatening Thailand or damaging the image of the country).
However, the internet does not make homosexuality more accepted in the general population and tends to re-create online ghettos and closets. As Pongpeera Patpeerapong, editor of More than Man magazine, puts it, ”I want gay magazines to break down the wall that blocks people’s understanding and positive attitudes towards homosexuality in Thailand.”
Gay prides, magazines and even TV programmes, such as Passport for Men one of the gayest Thai TV show which connotational content has completely escaped the censors, can bring inside people’s home and head the idea that ‘Gay men are not special people. We do not want any extra privileges. What we want is rights as equal as everyone else in society’ (Virach Suwanwilaikul, Max Magazine editor).
April 3, 2009 – The Nation
Without equality, tolerance for gays is just a myth
By Paisarn Likhitpreechakul: Special To The Nation
There’s a myth, especially among foreigners, that Thailand is "tolerant" towards gays and transgenders. After all, hardly a day goes by without one seeing ladyboys or katoeys (male-to-female transgenders). Most Thais also like to believe in such a feel-good story, as well as spin it to foreigners. To say anything to the contrary will cause a loss of face. However, that kind of simplistic rationale based on visibility is akin to reasoning that Thai women must have equal rights to men because every other Thai appears to be female.
Even long-term foreign residents aren’t likely to have heard about, for example, a bisexual woman who was burned alive in 2006, and the rape, murder and burning of a lesbian last year. Both cases were reported only in the Thai dailies. Rarely will they pick up stories on constant harassment and discrimination against katoeys, whose life options are severely limited. These "non-issues" are often brushed aside by Thais.
The shutdown of the Chiang Mai Gay Pride parade in February burst the "gay paradise" bubble of many who now scramble to explain the violent display of homophobia by the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group. Alarmingly, even after shutting down the event, this particular red-shirt group continues to use its radio station to incite violence against gays and katoeys. More liberal red-shirt supporters argue that homophobia is not written in their ideology. It needn’t be. Preying on unpopular groups is a classic political tactic. Rak Chiang Mai 51’s violence may be the most extreme case, but they were only trying to score points from the deep-seated homophobia in Thai society at large.
And they were not alone. While spreading outrageous accusations as facts, the local media shut their eyes and ears to the explanation of the organising NGOs about the parade’s cultural sensitivity and its human rights and anti-HIV objectives. Similarly, government agencies including the governor’s office showed disapproval of the event, irrationally claiming that it would tarnish Chiang Mai’s culture. Their concerted opposition was then used by the disrupters to justify their action. Finally, the police not only didn’t help, but even pressured the organisers to apologise to the abusers. None of these actors have so far take responsibility for the incident, showing implicit approval of the homophobic violence.
The past few years have shown the extent to which the Thai public is willing to allow homophobia. During their Sanam Luang protest, yellow-shirt protestors comfortably got away with a giant main stage sign taunting a political enemy with homophobic slander. Their mouthpiece, Manager newspaper, perpetrates the same practice. But homophobia is far from new in Thailand. Despite the Buddha’s core teaching of compassion, many Thai "Buddhists" believe that homosexuals and transgenders deserve low social status in the present because they supposedly committed sins – specifically adultery – in their past lives. Some even believe that homosexuality and transgenderism are, by themselves, sexual misconduct.
The cultural aspect of homophobia was obvious during the Chiang Mai incident. Some of the disrupters’ signs branded gays and katoeys as "kheud" – a northern term for "inauspicious" or "unlucky". Foreigners, naturally, are unlikely to be subject to such treatment. Rak Chiang Mai 51 even took the trouble of going around the city with loudspeaker trucks to warn foreigners to stay away from the event for risk of getting hurt. Thailand’s superficially observed "tolerance" for gays and katoeys is in fact the result of the non-confrontational culture. While disapproval of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is not worn on most people’s public sleeve, the anonymity of the Internet, however, is rife with homophobic comments made in private.
The truth is, Thai-style "tolerance" only applies when you stay put in your place according to the cultural pecking order. Unsurprisingly, Chiang Mai Gay Pride organisers were told by the authorities that there would be no objection if the parade was held on some back streets and other activities shifted to inside a hotel. The violence in Chiang Mai shows what happens when people refuse to stay put in their place and start demanding equal rights. Exceptions to the non-confrontation rule burst out when homophobia finds its outlet in those in very high or very low groups who think might makes right.
Some may view the concerted homophobia in Chiang Mai as an isolated occurrence, but it in fact sits well in the company of Rajabhat Institute’s 1997 initiative to reject students who are "sexual deviants" and the Ministry of Culture’s 2004 plan to get rid of the "homosexual presence" from television. These latter two examples of institutional homophobia are more worrisome. Political dissenters can shut down a gay event but it’s actually power-wielding civil servants who can arbitrarily shut down civil rights under the legitimacy of government.
Despite Article 30 of the present constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity, Thai governments have yet to show signs of recognising the equal rights of LGBT people. The number of laws to ensure equality and non-discrimination for LGBT people remains the same: zero. Although party to many UN human rights treaties, Thailand doesn’t fare better internationally under those terms. Late last year, Thai activists met with the Foreign Ministry, requesting that Thailand sign the UN General Assembly statement calling for decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide. The request fell upon deaf ears and Thailand abstained.
It is time the government re-examined the Foreign Ministry’s claim that saying yes to the statement would affect relationships with countries with gay-hostile cultures. To reject LGBT rights – an integral part of human rights – in favour of special treatment for cultural jingoism will expose Thailand’s lack of integrity and encourage more homophobia on home turf. To prevent the Chiang Mai incident from repeating itself elsewhere, the government must reaffirm all constitutionally guaranteed human rights as the minimum common denominator across the country.
Campaigning in Pattaya for the general election, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said in 2007 that, "The Democrat Party hopes that Thai society will recognise human dignity for all persons including those of the "third sex" … All of us must put the highest priority on human rights, liberty and equality. There should be no discrimination on the grounds of sex. Society should accept the differences as they exist in the modern world."
Now that he’s become the country’s leader, it’s time he makes good on those words. Or else, his government will continue to raise doubts on its human rights commitments. The first step is to sign the UN non-discrimination statement, as US President Obama belatedly did by reversing the position of his predecessor. After that, he must bring to account government offices in Chiang Mai for tacitly condoning homophobic violence. This will send a powerful signal throughout the country and the world that Thailand has no place for homophobia and that tolerance can only begin when all persons stand in equality, not the cultural pecking order.
5 April 2009 – Bangkok Post
Getting into the Swing of things
by Yvonne Bohwongprasert
Service Workers in Group (Swing) – a non-profit organisation set up five years ago by Surang Janyaem, has become a second home for many young and middle-aged workers in Bangkok’s red-light districts. The Kanchanaburi-native worked as a volunteer for the sex-worker group Empower for 20 years before deciding to head Swing, a support group which offers among other things education, counselling and mentoring for its members.
The petite 44-year-old – who earlier this month was recognised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for protecting the rights of sex workers – both male and female – and promoting a better understanding of the industry – is quick to correct people in the right term used for people in the sex business: "Please call them sex workers, not prostitutes, for me it’s a better word to use to describe their profession."
She explained how Swing started: "There were no proper support group for male sex workers, so together with a group of like-minded people, we began Swing," said Ms Surang. "Since graduating from university I have campaigned hard to get all male and female sex workers treated as people and with fairness. I want Swing to be a second home for them. I am like their big sister, and they are like my own family. When they hurt, I hurt. If they happen to carry the HIV virus, and don’t know who to turn to, they often come to me. When they contact an STD, Swing members take them to the hospital." From personal experience she has found them to be smart and sincere friends. Ms Surang’s team, which comprises people who have worked in the sex industry – assist members of the group in every area in their lives.
Ms Surang suggests that if the government would like to seriously eradicate sex work and help public health efforts prevent HIV among sex workers, they should invite sex workers for a round table discussion and ask them what should be done to address this issue. Offering them options that they haven’t been consulted on is not treating them fairly. She says there is no official record of the number of men working in the red light district, and the numbers have increased since she first began working with them.
"Fifteen years ago, there were approximately 500 to 600, but today in could be in the thousands. Mutual respect is, however, needed to address the problems facing today’s sex worker. Don’t look down at them – aside from offering them opportunities – accept it if they decide to continue in this work. But I am confident if they are given the chances that are offered to people from other walks of life, they will certainly opt for a better future than the one they are currently in."
Ms Surang said sex worker organisations in Thailand have always faced an uphill battle in their dealings with law enforcement, who often hold sex workers in contempt. In the past, she admits they took a largely confrontational approach, which often served to aggravate tension between both sides. She came up with an innovative strategy for solving this predicament by deciding that they work together with law enforcement to change bias attitudes towards sex workers, and that this would eventually bring about sustainable change in attitude and behavior. With this concept in mind, she initiated the Police Cadet Community Involvement Programme, a project in which third-year police cadets undergo a first-hand study of the sex industry for three weeks. The programme is held in August, when Swing picks between six and nine cadets for the internship.
"Adults are already set in their ways, so that is why I choose incoming police officers, who are both young, open to our awareness-raising efforts and more likely to change the mindset of the police force in the future. The goal of this programme is to increase the cadets’ understanding of the different social issues connected with sex workers and grassroots efforts to address them." Ms Surang takes great pains during the time that the cadets are with them to make certain they really understand the complicated issues faced by sex workers.
To give them hands-on experience, each staff member is assigned to mentor a cadet. One staff member per cadet offers each young man a thorough orientation, and a debriefing session is held each evening where each person reflects on what they learned that day. During the internship, cadets help promote condom use among male sex workers, give English and Thai lessons at Swing’s drop-in centre, and assist in games, workshops and outreach events. At the conclusion of the internship, she said the cadets are expected to deliver a presentation on their experience to all 1,200 students in the police academy. Ms Surang is confident Swing’s efforts will one day bear fruit.
Worth Repeating: HIV in Bangkok
On October 31, 2008 The Nation (English language newspaper in Bangkok) published the alarming statistics about HIV in Bangkok: “While the overall figure of people living with HIV/Aids is declining, new infections among men who have sex with men have been increasing drastically during the past few years, causing grave concern at the Public Health Ministry… in Bangkok the incidence of HIV infection had increased from 17 per cent in 2003 to 30 per cent last year.
The rate of infection in Chiang Mai rose to 16.9 per cent last year from 15.3 per cent in 2005, while Phuket jumped from 5.5 per cent in 2005 to 20 per cent last year… the risk areas were concentrated in tourism centres.” (Pattaya was not included in the survey.)
This sobering analysis should dampen the fantasy expectations any foreigner has about coming to Bangkok hoping to enjoy the liberal scene here. Even more, it should worry gay and bisexual locals about the renewed risks of their same-sex behavior with other Thais. This survey was not about ‘farang’ (foreigner) behavior; it was about Thais having sex with Thais. This has set off alarm bells among health care workers and agencies in Thailand.
Two important questions are: How real is this knowledge among gay Thais ‘on the street?’ And what is being done as a result of this survey?
Unbreakable Ties–Exercising the option to come out and make a statement.
Gay rights activist, Natee Teerarojjanapongs
by Arusa PisuthipanI and Yingyong Un-Anongrak
He is widely recognised as a prominent gay rights activist and an HIV/Aids advocate as well as an environmental devotee. But to himself, Natee Teerarojjanapongs just wants to be identified as "Gay Natee".
"I usually refer to myself by using the word ‘gay’ in front of my name to show others that there is nothing wrong with being gay. To me, it’s one way to deal with social prejudice. And I think it works, at least psychologically," said Natee, founder and head of the Gay Political Group of Thailand. Established in 2005, the group aims to provide an arena for people with sexual diversity to take part in political activities. Among male homosexuals, as well as straight men, Natee is known as the first gay man to start using the word ‘gay’ instead of Nai (Mr) in front of his name to label his gender identity, but he is not the only one to do so. His intention, he explains, was, and is, to challenge social scepticism and negative attitudes toward homosexuality.
Natee is also the first openly Thai gay man to be rejected by an insurance company when he wanted to purchase a life insurance policy simply because he is gay and was thus categorised in the "high risk" group. After his story made newspaper headlines last year, the insurance company issued a memorandum to its 80,000 insurance sales agents that they could accept insurance coverage applications from people with sexual diversity, thanks to Natee’s campaign against injustice. In addition, Natee is the first openly gay man to be honoured as a Fellow by Ashoka, a global association that lauds people whose works are aimed at creating a better society.
In Thailand’s political domain, Natee was the first openly gay man to decide to run for senator. He did that in 2006. Although he was unsuccessful in this attempt to win a seat in parliament, he says his political participation will at least help to change the poor image the general public has of gay people.
"My point was not to win the election," Natee recalls of his political campaign. "I just wished that people in general would stop believing that gays, or katoeys [transvestites], were only good at dancing or looking pretty. We have brains, too." For more than two decades, Natee has been devoting his time and energy working as a gay rights activist trying to create a better perception of homosexuals. To resolve the public’s misunderstanding over gays, Natee initiated the concept of gullagay ("a good gay"). This revolutionary idea, he says, parallels the Thai traditional value of gulla bhudr, gulla thida, literally "a good son, a good daughter".
Still a full-time gay rights activist, Natee Teerarojjanapongs lives with his partner in Chiang Mai. Conveyed in all his moves is his core message that one’s behaviours are not necessarily a fruit of one’s sexual orientation. The word "homosexuality" does not spell sexual promiscuity. Same-sex lovers can be decent members of the society, too, he maintains.
"Admittedly, the image of homosexuals in Thai society is very sex-oriented. People usually have a grasp of gay men in the context of the ‘ooh-la-la’ world. In terms of sex, they think gay men and katoeys are fast and promiscuous. In terms of work, they think we are not articulate or adaptive, that we can be only dancers or hairdressers. As for behaviour, the popular view is that we are naughty and verbally aggressive. But if they look at us more carefully, they will know that many of us are, and can do, better than that."
A native of Suphan Buri province, Natee is the only son of a Chinese couple. To all Chinese families, a son who cannot produce an heir for his parents is like a useless tree. And Natee was treated no different. So, the production of an heir for his old father then was his greatest responsibility, and it seemed like the only way to meet his parents’ desire was to get married. "My dad was so eager to see me the father of an heir for our family," recalls Natee, now 52. "Although I had realised ever since I was young that I was gay, I still needed to live up to my dad’s expectations. So, I tried flirting with a girl in the fervent hope that intimacy with a female could change me. But I was totally wrong."
The young Natee at that time could not figure out any better solution than trying to find a place where he belonged. The United States – the Land of Freedom – popped up as his ideal haven. It was where people could live freely regardless of their sexual orientation, he thought. Natee decided to relocate to the destination he defines a "gay-friendly society". Fortunately, his lifestyle fitted well with those of many other people in the US, where, he says, gay men are not compelled to be cross-dressers or pressured into behaving like women. Most importantly, homosexuals over there can live their lives without a high degree of pervasive social disdain.
After two years in the US studying jazz dance, Natee returned to his home country. It was about time for him to work toward a nicer and more tolerant society back here. In 1986, Natee launched an HIV/Aids prevention campaign called Gloom Sen See Kao (The White Line Dance Troupe). The campaign, he notes, incorporated contemporary dance and performing arts with only one message to deliver, and that was the importance of HIV/Aids prevention.
"The White Line Dance Troupe began its HIV/Aids-awareness presentation in gay bars and saunas, and soon our work spread outward to Thai society at large on a bigger scale, like giving performances in schools and shopping malls. Our focus was on disseminating knowledge about the disease and the preventive measures recommended for high-risk groups, especially men who have sex with men," Natee recounts.
That was perhaps his first step into the forefront of Thailand’s social work as a full-time activist. Natee made up his mind to admit in his interview with Neon Magazine, a gay magazine, that he was gay. And, of course, his dear mother was extremely angry and disappointed. "She drove me out and told me to go away. I didn’t know what to do, so I left home. When I went back at night, however, I saw that she was still waiting for me. And she told me that no matter what I was, it was more important to be a good person. Then we cried and hugged each other. To me, that was the greatest turning point in my life."
These days, Natee lives in Chiang Mai. After having spent more than 15 years working for the HIV/Aids prevention cause, he has chosen to pursue a slower pace of life. "I am burned out, and I have had enough of HIV/Aids," he said. His decision was also partly due to the fact that he was beginning to develop permanent laryngitis from hard work. He made up up his mind to relocate north and live far away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. However, for an active man who used to spend most of his time working with and for people, living in absolute serenity was something he was not quite familiar with.
"My life in Chiang Mai at that time was perfect, but it seemed like something was missing. In the daytime, I didn’t do much. I just drove around town and went home in the evening." In 2000, Natee received the Utopia Award, which is presented annually to leading gay human rights advocates. It inspired him to resume his work as a social activist. The award, he says, made him realise that society had not forgotten him but still recognised his dedication to the community even though he had stepped out of active service. As a result, though based in Chiang Mai, Natee made a comeback as a gay rights activist, raising public awareness of the rights of people with sexual diversity.
His masterpiece, he says proudly, was in 2006 when the government stopped labelling katoeys as persons afflicted with "a permanent mental disorder" in their SorDor 43 conscription certificate. His fight against social prejudice, the activist says, has been like a struggle for justice and equality for all.
"I don’t want any privileges for gays; I just want them to be treated first accept their own sexual identity and be bold enough to "come out of the closet". He says that it will help to raise the gay community’s negotiation power, which will eventually lead to acceptance by other people in society. For those gay men who are considering coming out, I would encourage them to say ‘yes’ quickly because, after all is said and done, there is nothing wrong with being gay.
Some people may think of me as a dictator who keeps telling others to do this and that … but revealing one’s own sexual identity is simply just telling the truth and does not make him a liar. In my opinion, when we gay men come out and show society that we have a firm standpoint, it is like giving ourselves and society an option. To me, to have an option means to have a way to survive."
When he was young, Natee used to believe that being born a gay man was the most tormenting experience in life, and that if he could choose freely, he would never want to be reborn with such a sexual orientation. He has since completely changed his mind. "If I could choose what to become in the next life or any lives after, I would choose to be born a gay again."
22 June 2009 – Fridae.com
Bye Bye Bangkok Pride
by Douglas Sanders
Unnoticed and unmourned, the pride parades in Thailand have come to an end. What happened? Doug Sanders reports from Bangkok. The Thai paradox is (a) a higher level of comfort with sex and gender diversity than elsewhere, but (b) no ‘out’ political or entertainment figures and limited LGBT rights activism. The Nation newspaper commented in an editorial in 2007 that the country “has traditionally been quite tolerant towards homosexuals and transvestites, who are widely regarded as a pretty harmless aberration to the norm…” How’s that for a tolerant putdown?
Things seemed to change in 1999 when we saw the first Bangkok Gay Festival, with a parade at Halloween in the central business district. A real live parade! Obviously (to outsiders), this was a “pride” parade, like those in the West, designed to stake out gay (and later lesbian) visibility in a society that limply ‘tolerated’ sexual diversity. The unique things about Thailand were (a) the niche for transgender kathoey in the entertainment and beauty industries, and (b) the roughly one hundred gay bars, saunas, massage parlors, restaurants and discos in Bangkok. It was these two factors that came together in 1999. Pakorn Pimpton, a dancer and drag performer, involved with one of the major entertainment companies, was the individual who put the cabaret performers together with the bar owners to back a parade that was a public party, not a political statement.
Longtime activist Natee, who had no role in planning the parade, rushed in at the last moment. He put his activist banner at the very front of the parade, claiming that right on the basis of his pioneering anti-AIDS organisation, known as FACT. Tang, of Angaree, the pioneering lesbian organisation, had t-shirts printed up renaming the event the “Gay and Lesbian” festival, and sold them on the margins of the parade. They had, in fact, been ignored in the planning, but claimed a space anyway.
Who was in the parade? The cabaret kathoeys and the bar boys. The gay business owners sponsored floats and had their sex workers on show. (See photo gallery) The business owners saw the parade as a way of drawing in more gay tourists, and, in 1999, that seemed to work. I remember well the crowds of gays on Silom near Soi 4, there to see the parade. Many had come up from the AIDS conference in Kuala Lumpur to have some fun in Bangkok and see the parade. The commercial interests of the business owners and the partying agenda of Pakorn diverged. The business owners took over and pushed Pakorn out of the leadership. The “gay festival” was renamed “Bangkok Pride.” Business owners in Pattaya and Phuket thought there was money to be made, and started their own parades and festivals.
After a number of years the Bangkok Pride board developed its personality clashes, and faced declining support from businesses and the few NGOs involved. Eventually the main business figures withdrew in favor of the Thai NGOs. But the Thai NGOs had never been the people pushing the parties and the parade. The last parade was held in 2006. The Pattaya parade was completely different, and quite strange. There already was a Pattaya parade on world AIDS Day, December 1st. School children put together anti-AIDS floats, and were judged by a panel of teachers and officials. The gay parade was piggy-backed on the AIDS parade. After all the grim floats came dancing bar boys.
I am not sure when this ended, but there has probably been no parade for three years. Pattaya Pride was exclusively organised by expatriate gay businessmen. A number of parties and events continue to be held every year, packaged as the Pattaya Gay Festival (PGF). Instead of an AIDS day march, last year saw a Mr PGF contest at the biggest go-go bar on December 1st.
Phuket pride was also exclusively run by gay businesses, but there they seemed to be exclusively Thai. That parade and ‘festival’ is now history. For business owners it is easier to organise some street parties and ‘handsome man’ contests. Those events are closely linked to the gay bars and provide some buzz for tourists. The parades, after the first year, probably drew few new tourists to the gay scene. The Chiang Mai story, clearly, is totally different. A small pride parade was held in Chiang Mai in January, 2008, without advance publicity or media coverage. It was part of the Asian regional conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).
The local organisations supporting the conference and parade were the main gay-run AIDS organisations – Rainbow Sky and M-Plus. So the parade was NGO driven from the beginning, like the parades in the Philippines. The attempt to hold a second Chiang Mai parade in January, 2009, was blocked by ‘red shirt’ political activists loyal to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin. The red shirts claimed to be defending traditional Lanna (Northern Thai) culture. Police did not interfere, though the Red Shirts physically confined the would-be marchers to prevent the parade from happening.
Natee, the pioneer activist, lives in Chiang Mai. Just like 1999, the organisers had ignored him. Instead of inviting himself into the parade (as in 1999), he publicly opposed the parade – angering other activists. NGOs in Bangkok held a “Sexual Diversity Day” in November, 2008, with rainbow umbrellas (covered in a previous Fridae story ‘Thailand holds first sexual diversity day’, see below). Here again we have an NGO backed event, without sponsorship from gay businesses. At this point no one knows if it will become an annual event.
Douglas Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor living in Bangkok. He can be contacted at sanders_gwb @ yahoo.ca.
July 2009 – Thanhnien News
NGO introduces antidiscrimination toolkit for MSM group
by Michael Smith
A Vietnamese NGO introduced a new toolkit to reduce stigma and discrimination toward “men who have sex with men” (MSM) at a working group meeting for MSM organized by UNAIDS in Ho Chi Minh City. The toolkit, which has been developed with UNAIDS funding, is designed to educate families, media and authorities about MSM to reduce discrimination so MSM members feel freer to access services for health and HIV/AIDS. At the meeting, Dr. Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for the Social Development Studies (ISDS) NGO, which developed the toolkit, demonstrated some of the toolkit’s activities that defined different sexuality groups and behaviors.
She told the working group, which has representatives from six provinces in Vietnam, it was very important to be careful with words and to “weigh our words” when talking about homosexuality issues in Vietnam. She said MSM is a behavior not a sexual identity as sometimes heterosexual men have sex with men but do not “see themselves” as gay. It was important that these groups on the fringe of gay culture be able to access MSM services, she said.
Also at the meeting, UNAIDS partnership advisor Ludo Bok announced that the Vietnamese government would be developing national guidelines for HIV control among MSM. He said the MSM working group would be involved in the process. After the conference Bok told Thanh Nien Daily the guidelines were an important step toward institutionalizing intervention, friendly services and training for different MSM models to become an official part of the health system.
There were serious gaps in MSM being able to access services and information at present, he said. He said figures from the HIV/STI Integrated Biologic and Behavioral Surveillance (IBBS) showed that 9 percent of MSM in Hanoi have HIV/AIDS with 5-8 percent in HCMC, he said. “If something isn’t done, we might have a situation like in Bangkok where the percentage of MSM with HIV/AIDS doubled from 2007 to 2008 from 14 to 28 percent.”
July 2009 – Other Sheep
The Thai Village Gay Way
Nothing and everything prepared me for this ministry at this point of my life. Nothing in my background even hinted that I could develop an affinity for this range of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people. I was an Illinois farm boy and I suspect I don’t have to explain how little positive regard for queers and queens I grew up with. And yet here I am on the cusp of seventy years of age with a “group” of fifty or sixty of them in free flow, coming and going, appearing and disappearing, and I feel this is the very thing all my life has been preparing me for.
The other day Pat drove up on her motorcycle. Both Pat and the dilapidated Honda are often dysfunctional, but I was so glad to see her it surprised me. She is hardy, brave, funny and loving. But she has the gracefulness of a boxing arena bouncer, except for her two-inch long fingernails, and she has the ethical level of a numbers runner, which she is. Only God could have moved my heart to an elevated level of affection for this 300-pound mass of gay-ity.
Pat is in the inner circle of our group, as I think of it. There are fifteen or twenty in this core group. They are mostly my partner, Pramote’s friends going way back. That’s how this ministry developed, if it is a ministry. And I have to admit that nothing in my background, in my study for three theological degrees, or in my 40 years of being an ordained Presbyterian pastor and missionary would have suggested this open-house, fluid, do-it- yourself buffet would qualify for the label of ministry that I keep reminding myself it has.
But this introduction isn’t about me as much as it is about a way of caring within this unique group in this northern Thai village context. Pramote is my partner in this undertaking, and my life-partner for the past decade. This is his area of Chiang Mai where he herded water buffaloes and hunted for mushrooms as a boy. He swears he always knew he was gay, it was a given. It was also recognized and accepted by everybody in the village … where the word “secrets” means “we all know, so we don’t have to talk about it all the time anymore.” This openness, of course, is how Pramote’s network of friendships developed. Here you don’t have to rely only on “Gay-dar” radar to intuit kinfolks.
The group, the inner circle of close friends who are in regular contact with each other and who live around here, the wider circle of their gay friends and relatives, and the outer circle of acquaintances and associates of these friends (many of whom live away from here now), are not all the gays there are in our range of villages (a 3-mile radius). We know of many other individuals who would qualify and be welcome. That brings me to the heart of the matter.
It is clear that the dynamics of this group is built around affinity and develops exclusively from a network of friendships. Nothing else has sufficient attraction to hold the group together or to cause anyone to identify with it. At the same time it is a limiting, or rather a leavening, factor. Affinity is what defines as well as describes the group. It is a fellowship that is in constant flux as people move away from the village, or, as in Pramote’s case, move back, as they take spouses, trips and jobs, and as they have issues. It is not a formal voluntary association. Since it is based on friendships it is more durable and takes less maintenance than that. But friendship tends to ebb and flow in proportion to participation in the group’s interactions.
Whenever I begin to wonder whether our association is a ministry in any authentic sense, I am brought back to reality by a list of the thirty activities we have undertaken in the last two years. They are divided about half and half between gatherings to celebrate and express affinity, and endeavors in which the group served the community in unique ways. In every case someone in the group is the spark-plug or organizer and friends in the group are the natural recruits and participants. The group has organized a fund- raising event for the village school. It wasn’t low-key, either. It was a full- scale third-gender beauty pageant with 32 stunning transsexual participants. Hundreds of village folks attended. One part of our group are the flower arrangers for funerals and house blessings. Our group provides the coaching, choreography, costumes and cosmetics for a high school troupe of dancers that are locally famous. We have had outings, er, excursions. Last New Year’s Eve we had a costume ball to welcome the New Year and, yep, it turned out to be a drag-fest. This is the village, after all, not the city. There aren’t a lot of occasions to strut where we live. So, I reckon this is a ministry to the extent that mutual affirmation, affinity, and community service are a ministry.
I have announced to the group that ours is a safe house. “If anybody needs to run, come here first.” Bullying, abuse and violence aren’t common, but before Pramote and I moved back there were at least two gay suicides, so the serene front the village wears isn’t perfect, and being gay isn’t all about being confident of our security. Many parents go through the same curve of denial and force their sons into a period of defiance and defensiveness as in other countries. That can be rough. The group has a role as a model to younger gay guys of how others have survived. And the group is a quiet zone where acceptance is assured. I think of this as a ministry to the extent that providing care, comfort and the assurance of protection for vulnerable people is a ministry.
A third way this is a ministry suffered a major set-back a few years ago when one of the missionaries mounted a series of campaigns to have me stigmatized, if not shunned, by the Christians here in Thailand. It was all done in the name of protecting the Church from my type of abomination, and to cause me such pain, I guess, that I would see how vile I was and repent. What happened is that Pramote lost all of his burgeoning interest in Christianity, and all my contacts with congregations turned cold and formal. I have no church community any more, and so one whole aspect of ministry among and in behalf of gay people in this part of the country has withered. Of necessity I have become convinced there must be another way to witness to the Gospel in this village context. Over the last year I have been hammering out a theological mode of being a Christian Buddhist. This means living as a Buddhist, integrated into the tides of village life, while maintaining conviction that Jesus Christ provides the final answer beyond the rigors and uncertainty of merit making to escape endless reincarnations. Jesus has many other answers, too. But as long as the churches are so unattractive and inhospitable we will try to integrate into the community we have and discover a new paradigm for presenting the Gospel.
Nothing less than all these years and all my accumulated experiences could have prepared me for this role as a pioneer. I didn’t willingly step out of my comfort zone in the Church, I was evicted, but I think that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing out here.
The Rev., Dr. Kenneth Dobson, Chiang Mai, Thailand
August 4, 2009 – Queerty.com
Should Posing For a Gay Mag In Your Undies Get You Banned From the Olympics?
It’s too bad that in a country where transgender folks are given a "third gender" status, posing on the cover of a gay magazine is still worthy of reprimand: Appearing in his underwear for the cover of Thai magazine Stage, boxer Worapoj Petchkoom now faces a year-long ban. Officially, Petchkoom says he didn’t know the magazine was a gay title. Note to Petchkoom: Fire your publicist!
And while he’s spent half his time denying reports that he’s a homo (he says he has a girlfriend), he’s spent the other half trying to keep the Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand from booting him. Nevermind that Petchkoom, 28, is fingered as a 2012 London Olympics competitor; in 2004, he took home a silver medal.
Now there’s a full panel investigating why Petchkoom supposedly disgraced the boxing association. Was it because he’s on a gay magazine? Or because he posed in his underwear? ‘Cause that was sort of his own fault.
Petchkoom, 28, told the Joh Jai TV programme: "I thought it was an honour to be invited to grace the cover of a magazine on its third anniversary. "I became sceptical when I was told to wear just underpants. They said everything was going to be okay because it would show my abdomen muscles." The boxer said he was told he would have to pay compensation if he left the shoot.
Okay, scratch what we said earlier: Clearly he doesn’t have a publicist.
9 August 2009 – The Bangkok Post
Encouraging signs on HIV
by Achara Ashayagachat
Bali – HIV rates among men having sex with men (MSM) in Thailand have declined this year, experts told an Aids congress in Bali, Indonesia. However, while the rate may be falling in Thailand it is rising in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, experts told the International Congress on Aids in Asia and the Pacific forum yesterday.
Frits van Griensven from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the HIV infection rate last year reached a high of 30% among MSM in Thailand and Burma, but so far this year Thailand had reported a decline, either because victims had died or preventive measures taken in recent years were having some effect. In 2003, the HIV rate among Thai MSM was 17.3%. In 2005 it was 28.3%, and last year 30.3%. Most Asia-Pacific countries with moderate HIV prevalence still have time to act, he said.
Swarup Sarkar, director of the Global Fund-Asia Unit, said regional governments should focus on Aids education and HIV prevention among MSM and drug users. Governments, however, tended to put most effort into sex workers. The Committee on Aids in Asia had reported that only $1 billion was raised from international donors out of a required budget of $3 billion to address the spread of HIV. For the MSM group, only $20m-40m was raised for a required budget of $300 million, he said.
Jeffrey O’Malley, director of the United Nations Development Programme Bureau for Development Policy (HIV/Aids group), said if the spread of HIV among the MSM group was not addressed, the group would account for 40% of overall HIV cases by the year 2020.
2009 October 15 – PubMed.Gov
Correlates of Forced Sex Among Populations of Men Who Have Sex with Men in Thailand
by Guadamuz TE, Wimonsate W, Varangrat A, Phanuphak P, Jommaroeng R, Mock PA, Tappero JW, van Griensven F.
Thailand Ministry of Public Health-U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Collaboration, DDC7 Building, Nonthaburi, 11000, Thailand.
Although forced sex is a correlate of HIV infection, its prevalence and associated risks are not well described among men who have sex with men (MSM) in developing-country settings. Between March and October 2005, we assessed the prevalence of forced sex and correlates among populations of MSM (this includes general MSM, male sex workers, and male-to-female transgender persons) in Thailand using a community-based sample. Participants were enrolled from venues around Bangkok, Chiangmai, and Phuket using venue day-time sampling. Handheld computer-assisted self-interviewing was used to collect demographic and behavioral data and logistic regression evaluated factors associated with forced sex, defined as ever being forced to have sexual intercourse against one’s will. Of the 2,049 participants (M age, 24.8 years), a history of forced sex was reported by 376 (18.4%) men and, of these, most were forced by someone they knew (83.8%), forced more than once (67.3%), and had first occurrence during adolescence (55.1%).
In multivariate analysis, having a history of forced sex was significantly associated with being recruited in Phuket, classification as general MSM or transgender (versus classification as male sex worker), drug use, increased number of male sexual partners, and buying sex. The findings in our assessment were consistent with assessments from Western countries. Longitudinal studies are needed to understand the mechanisms of the relationships between forced sex correlates found in our assessment and HIV acquisition and transmission risks.
November 27, 2009 – Fridae
First ever consultation on MSM HIV/AIDS Care & Support held in Bangkok
by Laurindo Garcia
Over 90 representatives from 12 countries attend the first ever regional consultation on MSM HIV/AIDS care and support held last week in Bangkok.
The first ever Asia Regional Consultation on MSM HIV/AIDS Care and Support was held in Bangkok from 17-20 November. Co-sponsored by USAID (United States Agency for International Development), UNDP (United Nations Development Program), and organised by FHI (Family Health International), the landmark meeting was attended by over 90 people from 12 countries including China, India, Hong Kong, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, comprising representatives from community based organisations, government public health officials, technical advisors, and funding agencies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Clinton Foundation.
Care and support for MSM (men-who-have-sex-with-men) and TG (transgenders) with HIV/AIDS is an essential component of the HIV “Continuum of Care”, which comprises Prevention, Testing, Treatment, and Care & Support. Any effective HIV prevention strategy must also address the critical role that people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) play. There is a concerted effort region-wide for MSM and TG to get a regular HIV test, and as more people test positive, it is necessary to rapidly scale up treatment programs and support services to meet their needs.
Read Entire Article HERE