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23 Feb 2009

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.

Top of page: Photo from Thai-language newspaper Matichon; above: images posted on thaivisa.com.
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.

Reader's Comments

1. 2009-02-23 22:26  
is it ok in Thailand to just threaten people with violence like this? i am happy to live in a country where such illegal threats are not tolerated but acted upon by authorities.

former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra should distantiate himself publicly from war mongers like this if he doesn't want to see (what's left of) his credibility shredded.
2. 2009-02-23 23:11  
This is surprising. Different groups in Thailand now holding others to ransom.?..Neither the Thai government nor the exiled xPM on the run from prosecution will support the gays in Ching Mai. But these red shirted thugs should not be allowed to say what goes. The Ching Mai organisers should be supported by their brothers and sisters from overseas and organise another march to be attended by large contingents of overseas brothers and sisters. In the meantime the organisers should get the local people and businesses to speak out in support of their rights to be seen and to celebrate in the Ching Mai international tourist destination.It is no less than Phuket or Pattaya...or Bangkok. Do not be cowed by thugs. This is what bullies want and thrive on. Isolate them or include them but do not ignore them nor be their victim..Tony
3. 2009-02-24 01:21  
This was a sad day in Chiang Mai--I was there! But the "Rak Chiang Mai 51" group is essentially political at the core and, from what I could gather by interviewing demonstrators on location this past Saturday as well as talking to the parade organizers, some of them had been told that MPlus had received money and support from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) or the yellow shirts in Bangkok which is utterly false. There is good analysis of the "Rak Chiang Mai 51" group and other forms of thug-like activity they have been involved in recently:

4. 2009-02-24 01:29  
Hi guys below is my letter to the Bangkok Post which was published yesterday February 23rd

If you're gay, stay away

What happened [on Saturday] in Chiang Mai is a disgrace for the city and its people. A bunch of narrow-minded people in red shirts prevented the Gay Pride parade from happening - though it had been given the go-ahead by the authorities.

The marchers were prevented from assembling and intimidated by an angry mob calling themselves the ''Rak Chiang Mai 51'', shouting abuse and anti-gay slogans.

It is just unbelievable how this could happen in a major Thai city and tourist destination like Chiang Mai - to my disbelief while trying to reason with a policeman as to how they could let this happen, and demanding to know who was behind this. (According to the policeman, nobody organised the red shirts - they were all Chiang Mai citizens who came by themselves.) What a joke.

The Gay Pride parade had been given the go-ahead by the authorities only to be prevented by a bunch of hooligans (some of them hiding their faces behind masks) - who obviously had no permission to demonstrate.

After challenging the police as to the legality of the demonstration of the people in red, the police made it clear legality did not matter - but gays are not welcome in Chiang Mai, I was told (by the very people who were supposed to protect us from the primitive mob). We do not fit into the picture of the Chiang Mai culture the city wants to paint for the general public and the few tourists who are still visiting the city lately. And what did I want anyway - ''nobody got killed or beaten up, after all!''

I was lectured that ex-prime minister Thaksin (a convicted fugitive) was the best thing that had ever happened to this country and as long as the queer do whatever they do behind their own four walls ''we don't care - but don't come out onto the streets''.

Petchawat Wattanapongsirikul, a leading member of the ''Rak Chiang Mai 51'' group said: ''Chiang Mai people cannot accept this and will stop the parade by all means, even violence.'' He now thinks he speaks for all of the Chiang Mai people and threatens violence in their name.

Well, we have heard all this before, many years ago _ we want to keep our race and culture clean from undesirable elements ... a big ''Sieg Heil'' to Mr Petchawat and his mob in red - you have won a great victory in Chiang Mai, scaring away not only the participants of [Saturday's] event, but also my friends and me - for good. There are other more tolerant places to live in the world.

So Mr Petchawat, I hope you sent your thugs back today [Sunday] to clean up the mess you left behind - after all, this is not the picture tourists want to get from Chiang Mai - a major stretch in the inner city littered with garbage left behind by your ''cultured people''.

And as for the threat of violence, we are far too civilised to go for violence, so go to the Chiang Mai zoo, find a cave, beat your chest, and maybe you will get a response from a gorilla there. And don't you dare speak in the name of all the Chiang Mai people again. Chiang Mai has a majority of decent and peace-loving people, a far cry from you and your bunch of primitive hooligans!

5. 2009-02-24 10:18  
Red shirts are renowned for receiving money in exchange for protest services. Wonder who might have been behind this...and why the police were apparently complicit.

So reminds me of the religious right in the US and skinheads in Eastern Europe...

This is a strange horror for Thailand...and the threat to Lanna Culture is an obvious rationalization for a action that was planned for other reasons. The greatest threat to Lanna Culture is likely modernization and the absence of good teak to build the houses.
6. 2009-02-24 10:20  
Gay freedom is only a threat to people who desperately need an underclass - so they can feel superior to someone.
Comment #7 was deleted by its author
8. 2009-02-24 10:40  
Why has Thailand grown so hostile & paranoid?
I was there last November when the Red Shirts hijacked the Bangkok Intl Airport. omg, I've never seen a scene so angry & ugly- shouting @ airport staff n passengers, pushing past their way by sheer mob force, chanting out slogans as if possessed...the Thais have all bt lost their famous charm. :(

Post #4 boonrawdcnx: actually it's nothing surprising if u witnessed those things- has anyone noticed all the trouble started when Fat Thakso is ousted out of power?
9. 2009-02-24 16:35  
Incredibly sad from a country that is home to mostly peaceful, tolerant people. K. Petchawat's threats of violence are an embarrassment to the city and to the nation, and further underscore the need for such parades and marches. Phuket and Pattaya, known more for the sex trade than other Thai cities, are no the appropriate places for such activist marches: The festivals and marches often include a sexual sub-text (ok, not so sub), but they are not (only) about sex, but rather celebrating sexualities in their permutations. They are about making the CM gay/lesbian people feel that they ARE at home when they are home and don't need to flee to the anonymity of Bangkok.
Sad, sad, sad.
10. 2009-02-24 18:19  
Sadly, Thailand is a country in distress. Every day I receive breaking news updates from the ThaiVisaForum...reports of farong beheadings, farong kidnappings and robberies, farong murders, riots, bombs, fires, open hostility, airport closures and the coups and political corruption running rampant...how very, very sad....once perceived a a country of smiles and gracious people, metamorphing over recent years into a low-grade war zone. Please be extra careful when traveling there. Don't take for granted the illusion of safety, warmth, tolerance or openess even in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Sumoi, Patong.....
11. 2009-02-25 01:00  
most people who live in chiang mai know that the only reason why the red shirts got involved was because of a gay Thai ex-activist and a german gay human rights activist brought it to the attention of the authorities and complained to them, and also to the media - mainly because they are publicity hounds and wanted to front the parade.
12. 2009-02-25 08:47  
This makes me MORE inclined to never again set foot or spend my money in Chiang Mai again. Their hotels are dumps, the night bizarre is full of thieves and now this. Chiang Rai, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Chang and certainly Bangkok will all get my money before I ever set foot in that town again.
13. 2009-02-25 16:28  
Have you realized that, so far, only Caucasians have reacted to this news?

What do Asians, and especially my Thai friends think of this?
14. 2009-02-25 16:57  
Hi - guys great article about the thugs who prevented the parade last saturday
from the Bangkok Post yesterday:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Rak Chiang Mai 51: A pride or a disgrace for Chiang Mai?
Posted by Veera Prateepchaikul , Reader : 50 , 04:27:13


by Veera Prateepchaikul

Organisers of last Saturday's Gay Pride parade in Chiang Mai are demanding an apology from the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group for what they described as an uncivilized action by some 30 red-shirt hooligans who broke up the parade with force and intimidation.

There is not much that the organisers who comprise non-governmental organizations working on HIV/Aids problem can do towards the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group as they are too civilized. But they should have known better that even a verbal apology from the group would be impossible because the self-righteous group believes they are above the law and thus immune to any legal sanctions.

According to news reports, some 30 red shirts went to Tawan Trendy Mall where a stage was built to welcome the Gay Pride parade which was due to kick off from Buddasathan, through the Night Bazaar and finally ending at the mall. Once there, the red shirts launched verbal attacks against the event claiming that it was unsuitable and would tarnish the city's reputation. The gang then dismantled the stage and threatened to resort to violence if the parade was to be held forcing the organisers to call off the event.

This latest thuggish act by the red shirts associated with the Rak Chiang Mai 51 has not only shamed the northern capital wellknown the world over for the friendliness and hospitality of its people but may turn away many would-be visitors. Several state agencies have avoided Chiang Mai as a venue of their seminars or meetings for fear that they will be disrupted by the red shirts.

For those who may not have any memory about the notoriety of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group, the followings are some of the incidents perpetrated by the group's red-shirts:

A few days before the breakup of the Gay Pride parade last Saturday, dozens of red shirts went to Chiang Mai provincial hall where hundreds of corn farmers were protesting and demanding help from the government. The red shirts tried to intervene but they were rejected by the farmers who made clear they did not want politics to get mixed up with their protest. But the red-shirt leaders felt offended by the rejection and engaged in angry arguments with the farmers. Luckily, there was no violent incident.

On January 23, a few hundred red shirts led by Mr Petchavak Wattanapongsirikul, self-appointed leader of Rak Chiang Mai 51 raided a branch monastery of the Santi Asoke sect in Chiang Mai under a false pretext that some illegal objects might be hidden in the premise. The red shirts' blatant act stunned the Santi Asoke followers who are mostly children, women and the elderly. However, these people did not put up any resistance and allowed the red shirts to make the arbitrary searches which produced nothing illegal.

A similar ugly incident occurred in Lampang province when some 300 Rak Chiang Mai 51 red shirts went to Lampang Regent Lodge hotel to make searches after it was reported that Chaiwat Sinsuwong, a People's Alliance for Democracy leader, was due to attend a seminar organized by PAD's Lampang chapter.

And there was that shameful incident which happed at Chiang Mai University when one red-shirt protester slapped the face of a female lecturer who tried unsuccessfully to talk reasons with a group of red-shirt protesters who attempted to break up a get-together party of the university alumni in search of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban who was reported to attend the event as an alumnae.

But the worst violent incident involving the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group was the red shirts' raid last year of a community radio station of a PAD follower in the northern capital. The father of the station owner who was a very old man was allegedly beaten to death by the red-shirt protesters.

Of all the violent incidents involving Chiang Mai's red shirts, the Rak Chiang Mai 51 leaders have never made any apology or shown remorse for the death of the poor defendless old man beaten to death in a cowardly manner by the red shirts.

The reluctance of the Chiang Mai police to take legal actions against the law breakers seems to have emboldened the Rak Chiang Mai 51 to the extent that they believe they can take law into their own hands and can escape scot free for all the violence perpetrated by their street thugs.

Despite the notoriety of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 and the shame the group has brought on the northern capital, one may wonder aloud what has happened to the city and its people? How can they be so apathetic and so tolerable with such senselessness without uttering a voice of protest?
15. 2009-02-25 21:55  
Whats wrong with gays fighting back? Evryone says dont fight back but i tell you get 50 gays to beat the crap out of Rak 51 and see what happens.

If a thai guy threatened me i wouldnt take it!!
16. 2009-02-25 23:59  
The people of Chiang Mai have been shamed; not by the parade organizers, but by the narrow-minded and bigoted protesters. Whatever happened to tolerance and acceptance of peoples' right to self-determination, as long as it is not hurting anyone else??
17. 2009-02-26 01:42  
Post #12 marseil says (Posted : 25 February 2009 16:28) :
Have you realized that, so far, only Caucasians have reacted to this news?
Asia has never had a good record on human rights issues. It stems sadly in the ideology of tolerance by observation. This is the Achilles heel of the modern Asian culture. Tolerance is somewhat celebrated but this only encourages deliberate injustices by fractions who prey on such "weaknesses".
Gone are the days when the brave righteous few fought back with a vengeance against warlords and corrupted officials. These days, money, cowardice and corrupted morals has turned many to just turn the other cheek. It's a sad day indeed for Asia. Perhaps, it needs to reach a critical stage like with the recent Malaysian Political scene before people are forced to react. Perhaps. ;(

Comment #18 was deleted by its author
19. 2009-02-26 11:17  
Thaksin do deserve to be throw out since he started behave like LKY. Then again, The Yellow Shirt Royal supporters are not good either. So either Red or Yellow, Thailand IS going down to the drain!

Lucky I canceled my Bangkok trip, which supposed to be end of this month! I think people should only get back to Thailand when thing get back to normalcy.

People all over the world seem to go back in time during this economy crisis! Feel like the world need a war or detonate a few nuclear bombs to get a reboot! SAD!
Comment #20 was deleted by its author
Comment #21 was deleted by its author
22. 2009-02-26 12:20  
jammyboi it makes me sad to read yr post, bt unfortunately almost everything you've described is happening here in Asia @ an alaming rate.
These days its indeed money, cowardice and corrupted morals- & dare I say, even eugenics had a part to play...just look @ govts in the region extolling the 'virtues' of certain 'desirable' social classes, then completely dehumanising the rest..
Also the recent incident where the Thai gay-rights activist suddenly changes track & castigates his own community & trans people? I suspect he's doing so for his own survival. Triste.

p.s girlongirl: hahaha, I like yr description..
Fat Thakso kekeke....heard even the chaps @
ManchesterCity booted him out too. He's living proof that charm is something money cannot buy.
23. 2009-02-26 17:56  
Hmm .... I was considering taking a course in Chiang Mai. Best to reconsider. I think there are more friendly places to take the course and spend my money. No doubt this group of misfits will drive more business away then they will encourage.
24. 2009-02-26 22:31  
Wow, what a disappointment to hear about this... Chiang Mai is very different than NYC, because gay New Yorkers would have marched EVEN LOUDER if this had happened here! I understand that Thailand is not a place where people like confrontation... Maybe the organizers should spend a year in NYC to toughen them up? hahaha
Comment #25 was deleted by its author
26. 2009-02-28 02:18  
Sadly, if you want an omelet like Mardi Gras, you need to break a few eggs . . . the almost pathological desire to avoid confrontation in many Asian countries does gay people no service at all, leading to an element of retardation or 'arrested development' in the development of gay people and their own cultural maturity, which is surely worth more than any concocted nonsense about 'Chiang Mai values'. Trust me, this sort of drivel about 'offending local/indigenous values' gets trotted out in every anti-gay campaign, everywhere in the world. For a 'local' concern, it's peculiarly universal in the way it is expressed . . . a sure sign that it is rubbish.
27. 2009-02-28 23:04  
does ONE tired old queen's rantings and ravings have the power to shut down a gay rpide parade? I think not. the movers and shakers of the Chiang Mai
28. 2009-02-28 23:04  
does ONE tired old queen's rantings and ravings have the power to shut down a gay rpide parade? I think not. the movers and shakers of the Chiang Mai
Comment #29 was deleted by its author
30. 2009-02-28 23:04  
does ONE tired old queen's rantings and ravings have the power to shut down a gay rpide parade? I think not. the movers and shakers of the Chiang Mai
31. 2009-02-28 23:06  
give me a break! you really expect me to believe that the rantings and ravings of one tired old queen have the power to shut down an entire city's gay pride parade? I think not. The so-called movers and shakers of the Chiang Mai GLBT community are just using this as an EXCUSE for the fact that they couldn't get it together...
32. 2009-03-01 04:28  
Post #25 laoshiyan says...zzz
Post #24 laoshiyan says...zzz
Post #23 laoshiyan says...zzz
Post #22 laoshiyan says...zzz
...the rantings and ravings of one tired old queen...

Hmm...guess it takes one to know one.

"...just using this as an EXCUSE for the fact that they couldn't get it together... "...and pray tell, this you knew through what factual source?..or just more rantings?..zzz

Comment #33 was deleted by its author
34. 2009-03-02 13:01  
It's as old as human history, apparently. I mean gays being periodically labelled "anti-natural" or "anti-cultural", or both lol. So... when we look at our face in the mirror we have to ask ourselves "is this real ? do I exist ? or am I made of antimatter ?"

Thailand home of the tolerant, the kind and the gentle ? give me a break. The ratio of intolerance, racism and bigotry here is the same as anywhere else, it just happens to be wrapped up in a different manner.

The world famous "lady-boy" phenomenon in the Kingdom of Siam does not indicate that Thais are tolerant of alternate sexualities, it actually proves the exact opposite, and it stems from a deliberate confusion between gender and sexuality. In Thailand you are brought up within the following equation : If you like to have sex with women, THEREFORE you are a man, and if you like to have sex with men, then you can ONLY be a woman. Gender is defined by sexual preference. Yes, it is a stupid, false, outdated and strictly conservative concept, but there you go. Because of that idiotic and very time-resistant brain programming, a large number of Thai gays opt for the "lady-boy" path, simply because human beings crave for social acceptance and inner coherence, whatever the cost, AND whatever the level/amount of hypocrisy involved.
35. 2009-03-03 15:53  
i was on holiday for the second in chiang mai, a city i really like, appreciate for its nature, beautiful tempels and calm, far away from the rush of bangkok. i've been living in Cambodia for more than 4 years and travel a lot in the region. i was very surprised and didn't un derstand what was happening that saturday evening when i heard a woman shouting through a microphone, i've never heard a thai woman shouting so hard... i thougth it was another political manifestation (red shirt one)... but no.. the only thing i could understand was NO to Gay Parade.. i can tell you we cancelled our visit to a local gay bar.. and just went home to our hotel.. just to say that gay friendly is only valid for a limited community of open minded people, everywhere in the world... western people tend to say that gays are very much accepted on western society and in thailand they believe half of the population is gay.. it may look like, in some areas.. but it's NOT..
36. 2009-03-03 18:15  
Yes yes yes Kangaro, I couldn't agree more !
Let's just get real and be aware of the fact that many things and places deemed "gay friendly" are nothing but money-friendly. The money happens to be pink that's all. When gays started appearing in TV series, for instance, it was not because American society became suddenly enlightened but because marketing surveys showed that it would bring in more audience, ie more ads, ie more cash. If that process helps us to be accepted and even liked by a larger number of straight people, then let's welcome it, but see it for what it is.
In Thailand, you'll often hear Thai people call go-gobars "gay bars". Well, er, excuse me but in my mind a gay bar is a place where gays come to meet other gays and not sopme meat market where you buy people (often not gay) who just happen to walk around the place in their underwear with (how convenient) a number on it.
37. 2009-03-08 07:00  
27 February 2009

Gay Pride Parade in Chiang Mai Broken Up by Red-Shirted Thugs

by Steve Ault

More than two hundred red-shirted followers of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra introduced homophobia for the first time into Thailand's festering political scene when on Saturday, February 21, they forced cancellation of a lawful and peaceful gay pride parade and rally in Chiang Mai. The disruption was organized by Rak Chiang Mai 51, the local faction of Thaksin-supported United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). Despite reassurances by local authorities that the parade would be allowed, the police made no effort to provide a buffer separating the disrupters from the marchers. Many of the disrupters wore red masks to avoid being recognized.

About two hours before the parade was to begin, spoilers blockaded a compound where organizers had come earlier to prepare for the event. Later, menacing thugs yelling homophobic insults prevented other parade organizers from entering the site. Also, thirty violence threatening spoilers forced organizers of the concluding rally to dismantle a stage set up at the rally site.

Two days before the event, warnings had already circulated in the area telling tourists to stay away from the planned parade route. In addition, for several days local radio stations controlled by the Thaksin clique urged its followers to disrupt the event. The logistical complexity of the disruption, which also included a fleet of sound trucks blaring homophobic epithets and threats of violence, indicated a significant level of planning and financing.

Outnumbered, and fearing the certain possibility of violence with no protection from the police, organizers were obliged to call off the event. And adding insult to injury, organizers of the parade and rally―under duress―were forced to apologize to the Red Shirts for "offending Thai culture".

Soon afterwards the disrupters began to disperse. A group of organizers and supporters who had been holding a candlelight vigil outside of a nearby Buddhist temple were then able to enter the compound to join their trapped comrades. The ensuing scene was extremely emotional with many wailing loudly as they embraced. They then fixed lighted candles to the ground and joined hands in a short ceremony calling for peace and understanding. Aside for some thrown eggs, no injuries or acts of violence were reported, although the author of this report, who was participating in the vigil, was nearly hit by a flying whiskey bottle hurled by one of the masked red-shirted thugs.

Thai Politics

In 2006 a military coup overthrew elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In the upside down world of Thai politics, where appearance and reality are often separated by a great divide, this apparent act of repression was, in fact, progressive. Thaksin (it is proper in Thailand to refer to people by their first name) is a master of crony capitalism and corruption. A media tycoon and one of the wealthiest individuals in the country, he systematically bought off anyone and anything to gain and consolidate power.

When an escalating protest movement and yet more affronts by Thaksin brought the county to a state of near anarchy, the military instigated a bloodless coup. In Bangkok, people responded by showering smiling soldiers with flowers as children played on the tanks. But the coup leaders were indecisive and incompetent, and areas that have been Thaksin strongholds started developing a counter protest movement of their own.

Two governments, essentially serving as proxies for Thaksin, were brought down by a combination of judicial mandates and protests organized by the yellow shirt wearing anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), comprised of social progressives and anti-corruption activists. These protesters are militant but non-violent. However, in the face of mounting violent attacks by red shirted pro-Thaksin demonstrators, the anti-Thaksin forces took measures to defend themselves.

Yet another government has been formed, but this time with leadership opposed to Thaksin. Consequently, it is now the pro-Thaksin UDD that does most of the demonstrating. With much of his known assets in Thailand frozen and having been thrown out of Great Britain and declared unwelcome in Japan, Thaksin is becoming increasingly marginalized and desperate. So are his supporters. Chiang Mai is one of their strongholds.


Thailand has long enjoyed a reputation for tolerance, and deservedly so. Visiting western gays are amazed by the absence of homophobia in Thai Buddhist culture. The country is often referred to as a gay paradise. Then, what caused this first and explosive manifestation of overt homophobia in Chiang Mai, which has the reputation for being especially laid back and carefree?

Is it merely a temporary local phenomenon confined just to Chiang Mai? Has latent homophobia simply been conveniently manipulated for political advantage? And if so, has the sleeping dog now been roused by the troubling public speaking of one baffling, ambition-driven individual, namely Natee Teerarojjanapongs, Thailand's best known gay activist.

Natee first gained prominence twenty years ago with pioneering work on HIV/AIDS in Thailand. His creative and highly successful campaign for safe sex education and compassion for people with HIV/AIDS was directly responsible for saving many lives. Possibly, the number totals in the thousands.

Now, years later, the charismatic public speaker and author of popular books on gay issues and on HIV/AIDS has attained celebrity status, and has become a favorite of the national media.

A dispute erupted between Natee and organizers of the Chiang Mai 2009 Gay Pride Festival, ostensibly over the character and plans of the event. It was not a debate about bare-breasted women or of floats transporting giant phalluses. No, it was nothing remotely like that. Rather, many of the participants viewed the objections raised by Natee as, in fact, a red herring: the real controversy being over power and control.

Appealing to local authorities to cancel and forbid the parade, Natee went so far as to call a meeting of various local officials where he publicly denounced the forthcoming event as well as its organizers. Considerable media were in attendance. In the end, the authorities permitted the event to take place. With publicity over the dispute ever increasing, a national television debate between the two sides raised it yet higher. And with Natee's oratorical skills in full bloom, many viewers became convinced that the gay pride parade would somehow "defile" the culture of Chiang Mai.

Also with high visibility and national publicity, Natee embarked on a campaign to expose sexual misconduct by Buddhist monks involving novices (boys) in a temple in a nearby city. Though simplistic analogies can be made with scandals within the Roman Catholic Church, a senior Buddhist monk notes that the problem is not endemic, but rather an isolated incident with which the Buddhist monastic order can and does deal effectively. The senior monk added that misconduct among monks generally involves matters related to money. Lay Thais corroborate this position, and agree with the senior monk that Natee's national media approach is highly inappropriate. Feedback from talk radio programs indicates a resulting state of near panic, with parents fearing to take their sons to ordain as novices in local monasteries. And, not surprisingly, expressions of homophobia, never before heard, are now being broadcast over the airwaves.

By creating an atmosphere of fear over predatory gay monks and going public with the dispute within the burgeoning gay movement, Natee Teerarojjanapongs, Thailand's foremost gay activist, has created conditions that led inadvertently to an upsurge of homophobia where virtually none had existed beforehand.

And again, not surprisingly, right wing, violence prone Rak Chiang Mai 51, frustrated and angry in an increasingly futile attempt to regain lost power, heard Natee's call and assumed the role of the enforcer of public morals and decency. They "saved" the city, in their view, from an act of "defilement". The consequential hue and cry, however, tells a different story: by threatening violence and thereby forcing the cancellation of a peaceful action in support of human rights, the disrupters from Rak Chiang Mai 51 are, in fact, the real ones guilty of defiling Chiang Mai.

Natee privately condemns the Red Shirts' disruption of the parade and rally. He argues that the event should have gone forth. However, as of this writing, he will not publicly condemn the disrupters nor accept any responsibility for what happened.

Addendum to article: A reliable source reports that the police were paid off by the Red Shirts not to intervene.

Comment #38 was deleted by its author
39. 2009-03-08 12:28  
liznitzer your contribution is remarkably well informed, well written and informative.
so, thank you for that and for letting people know what the real Thaksin politics are all about.

But one thing that truly startled me in your text is this :

"Thailand has long enjoyed a reputation for tolerance, and deservedly so. Visiting western gays are amazed by the absence of homophobia in Thai Buddhist culture. The country is often referred to as a gay paradise"

.... sorry but this is absolute crap !!!

how come you know so much about Thailand and yet you come up with this blatantly absurd stereotyped statement ? you yourself point out how appearances and reality are so often different here and it is particularly obvious on the issue of homosexuality. Do you have many Thai gay friends ? how many of them are out to their family ? do you know many lady-boys ? have you tried to understand why there are so many of them in Thailand ? do you know what their life is like, with regard to family, school, work etc ?

a "gay paradise" for whom ? I'll tell you for whom... for the RICH Thais and the gay foreigners (which includes Asian gay foreigners, LOTS of them) who come here with plenty of cash and are happy to use it for having lots of sex with guys they couldn't dream of approaching in their own country.

If, as it appears clearly throughout most of your contribution, you are truly keen to go beyond stereotyped ideas, appearances, and lies in all disguises, then please keep that position all along, dig deeper, and you will find out that saying "there is no homophobia in Thailand" is - unfortunately -just as silly and absurd as saying there is no homosexuality in Iran...

Anyway, thanks again, I did read your post several times and enjoyed it thoroughly in spite of that one notable and amazing error.

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