Last month, the Thai government supported a bill that would make Thailand the first Asian jurisdiction to allow same-sex civil partnerships (“Thai government approves same-sex civil unions”, December 25). It is significant progress in the battle for sexual equality in Asia, in contrast to the failed referendum on gay marriage in Taiwan.
Success for the gay rights cause in Thailand lies in, as the old Chinese formula goes, 天時地利人和 (tian shi di li ren he), or the “right time, the right place, the right people”.
The right time: Asia has become more open-minded with regard to LGBT culture, as evident from increasing media productions featuring sexual minorities. The past few years in Thailand have seen a number of local movies and TV dramas portraying homosexuals and transgender people, which received worldwide exposure through web platforms such as Line TV and YouTube. Never before have sexual minorities received so much attention in the media and popular culture, which makes it the best time for Thailand to advance LGBT rights.
The right place: Thailand appears more relaxed about sex and sexual orientation in general. The sex industry, especially sex tourism, thrives in Thailand. Walk down a street in Bangkok and you will probably see a number of transgender entertainers. Their performances are welcomed by not only Thais but also overseas tourists. The atmosphere of openness in Thailand makes it the right place to promote same-sex marriage.
The right people: the country is facing political instability, as a result of the military coup and delayed general elections. The junta has been slammed for the political crisis. To stay in power and gain public confidence, it has to show the nation and the world that it has taken steps to promote human rights. The move to back an LBGT rights bill helps the military government promote a positive image and stay in the good books of the sexual minorities.
Anson C.Y. Chan, North Point
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