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4 Jul 2007

update: thailand's new constitution will not protect LGBTS afterall

Due to a technicality, lesbians, gays and transgenders in Thailand will not be protected under the country's new constitution.

Updated on Jul 10, 2007
Lesbians, gays and transgenders in Thailand will not be protected under the country's new constitution as the constitutional drafting assembly said last week that the reopening of the gay issue had been done incorrectly. As such, the ruling renders the initial decision invalid. updated on Jul 10


Posted on Jul 4, 2007
The Thai government's Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) adopted language to ensure equal rights for gays, lesbians and transgendered people on Friday, June 29. The draft constitution expressly refers to people of "other sexual identities," which activists involved in the process said was understood to include transgendered (kathoey inThai) as well as gay men and lesbians.

If the draft constitution comes into force later in the year, it will be the fourth constitution in the world to include express protection for LGBT individuals in a countries basic law. South Africa, Fiji, Portugal and Ecuador each have such provisions, though the Fiji constitution is currently suspended. Other countries have general equality provisions in their constitution which have been interpreted to protect gays and lesbians.

Prominent in the work were pioneer activists Naiyana Supapueng of National Human Rights Commission, "Lek" Chantaluck Raksayoo from Sapaan Group, Natee Theerarojnapong of the Gay Political Group of Thailand, and Anjana Suvarnananda. Anjana, better known as Tang, heads the Anjaree lesbian group, worked closely with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), prompting the Commission to include LGBT rights in its submission to the CDA. Other gay advocacy groups involved include the Rainbow Sky Association and Bangkok Rainbow.

Since its creation under provisions of the progressive 1997 Constitution, the NHRC has consistently worked on LGBT issues, though with little public recognition.

Recognition of LGBT rights has become more visible in Thailand because of recent cases. One involved a challenge to the Thai military for classifying kathoey as suffering from permanent medical problems. The well-publicised case was backed by the National Human Rights Commission, and is now before the Administrative Court.

A current case involves a campaign against Novotel Hotel for allegedly refusing admission to a nightclub to a kathoey. The Bangkok Rainbow organisation has taken up the campaign, and it featured in the newspapers in the days before the final CDA debate.

The current Thai government was installed by the military after a coup in September, 2006. The CDA is in the final days of completing the draft constitution. The document is to be put to a national referendum, probably in August, to be followed by elections, now expected in November or December or early 2008.

Doug Sanders is a retired Canadian Law Professor now living in Bangkok. He can be contacted at sanders_gwb@yahoo.ca.

Reader's Comments

1. 2007-07-05 09:51  
Good for Thailand!

I wonder when they will allow gay marriage as well....
2. 2007-07-05 10:10  
So much for those useless "we are asian conservative" excuses by governments everywhere in Asia, and those who sing along stupidly with it.

Long live the THAI grace!
3. 2007-07-05 16:21  
This news is such a wonderful step. AND what a contrast to the preceding article about Australia. Good work Thai brothers and sisters. Its very heartwarming, and a testament to your nature.
4. 2007-07-06 07:23  
This is good news, and makes Singapore looks even more backward and out of date. Hopefully Singapore will feel some shame for its lack of human rights. ...and Malaysia.
5. 2007-07-06 11:58  
Well Done Thailand. Though the present Government is undemocratic and unconstitutional, at last they've done something right. Now restore our freedom and hold elections soon.
6. 2007-07-11 06:55  
If Mr Sanders had been an educated journalist and not a (now retired) law professor, he would have written his article that was posted on 4 July a bit more carefully. That's the thing with 'drafts', Mr Sanders, one is never sure if a draft gets approved--in this case by the CDA.

Besides, as Mr Sanders should also know, the draft constitution is being widely rejected by many groups in Thailand, particularly by students and young Thais who are concerned about their country.

It will be a long way before any Asian country acknowledges equal rights for gays and lesbians. Singa-pure is just one of the worst examples in this respect (but what can we expect from a corrupt government like the one led by Mr Lee & his junta?). As for Malaysia and Indonesia, they are Muslim countries, so I don't think anyone of us will see equal rights for gays and lesbians there--or even gay marriages--in our lifetime.

Besides, the present Thai (military) government is undemocratic and against the (latest) constitution! There MUST be free and democratic elections in the Kingdom soon. How much welcomed most of my Thai friends the coup at first but now most of them have started to realise what it is all about. The present Thai government is useless and what is has done for the Thai people is almost zero (apart from increasing the amount of money the Ministry of Defense gets, of course). The people who live in rural areas have started to suffer again.

Those who played an active or supporting role in that coup last year should be prosecuted. And I am very sad about the apparent support the military junta received from the King at first. There would have been other ways to stop Mr Thaksin from doing what he was doing and to stop some of the TRT actions!

The Thai military has to learn that it must not, under any circumstances, interfere in politics again!
7. 2007-07-11 21:36  
Oh I withdrawl my previous post and say this - damn those stupid conservative heads...

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