Gay Pride march halted
by red shirt militants
Demonstrators hold placards
bearing anti-gay slogans
and shout abuse at the parade participants.
A number of gays and lesbians
meditated and held a silent vigil
outside Wat U-Pakut as the protests went on around them.
Militant action by 200 Rak Chiang Mai 51 activists, led by
Phetchawat Rattanaphongsirikul, brought the proposed Chiang Mai Gay Pride
March to a halt on Saturday evening February 21 only minutes before it was
due to start.
The parade had been scheduled to begin at the Saeng Tawan intersection,
having first assembled at Buddha Sathan, and to continue along Chang Klan
Road, finishing at Tawan Trendy Centre, where a party and other activities
were to be held, including displays set up by HIV/Aids prevention NGOs.
From Page 1
Despite reassurances that the parade would be allowed by both the local
authorities and the police, by 4.30 p.m. the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group, many
masked and all wearing red, had gathered outside the forecourt at Buddha
Sathan, where 20 of the mainly Thai organisers of the gay parade had already
assembled. The activists surrounded the compound, shouting abuse and
homophobic comments and refusing entry to other participants.
Approximately 80 police were on the perimeter of the compound, attempting to
keep order. Within the compound, an expat family including 5 children, all
costumed for the parade, were threatened by the activists, who threw water
containing cactus spines over the group, causing pain and irritation.
According to Rak Chiang Mai 51 members, the Gay Pride parade had been
organised by local gay group Mplus with the intention of denigrating and
harming the culture, history and Lanna heritage of the beautiful city of
Chiang Mai. They stated that any such event should be permanently banned
from taking place in the city.
Tempers continued to run high for several hours, although the presence of a
large number of police prevented a major escalation. Participants in the
parade who had assembled in Buddha Sathan were prevented from leaving the
forecourt by the red-shirted activists.
Finally, Phetchawat and five core leaders of the group entered the forecourt
and called for an end to the parade and an apology from the organisers.
Having no option, as the parade had not been allowed to leave the area, and
fearing a violent outcome if they refused, the organisers accepted Rak
Chiang Mai 51’s terms, cancelled the parade, and apologised. A request was
made to police to ensure the gay group’s safe dispersal to their homes.
Pongthorn Chanlearn, one of the parade’s organisers, said, “This is the
first time that conservative groups have attacked gay people - they say they
are fighting for democracy. This is not democratic, this is unfair.” Many
sympathisers, both homosexual and heterosexual, including Chiang Mai
students, expressed their sadness at the cancellation; with one saying,
“This action has set back gay rights, harmed community relations and may
have damaged much needed tourism.”
Meanwhile, at Tawan Trendy Mall, the proposed end of the parade, a stage had
been set up for a beauty pageant and other entertainments. NGOs working with
HIV/Aids, including Cultural Canvas and Mpower, had created displays and
information stations aimed at gay men and sex workers. Visitors from all
over Thailand, from China and from Burma were present at the mall.
At approximately 5.45 p.m, a small group of about 20 older Rak Chiang Mai 51
activists arrived, and immediately chased a tuk-tuk driver and his decorated
vehicle containing foreign passengers from the area. Police prevented the
activists from entering the mall itself. A woman who was photographing the
activists was threatened - the police intervened, but would not let her
continue photographing, although activists were allowed to continue doing
so. Shortly afterwards, the organisers were forced by the mall’s owner to
take down the stage and all the information and exhibition booths.
The activists continued to shout abuse, stating that the parade had
connections with the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and that they
were protesting in favour of Lanna culture and Buddhism.
At Buddha Sathan, after the parade had been cancelled and the activists had
dispersed, a number of gays and lesbians who had been meditating and holding
a silent vigil outside Wat U-Pakut, walked into the compound carrying
candles. An emotional 2 minutes’ silence was held. The meditators had
previously been verbally abused by a group of activists, but had not
At a press conference held the following morning, attended by
representatives of 22 local NGOs and other organisations, Kittinan
Daramadhaj, president of the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand, told the
Chiang Mai Mail’s reporter that he would like to thank the people of Chiang
Mai and Rak Chiang Mai 51 for expressing their opinions, although he did not
consider their mode of expressions appropriate. He stated that he did not
harbour any anger or contempt for them. He feels this is a case of serious
misunderstanding, which has occurred because the Chiang Mai Gay Pride Parade
had been misrepresented by certain individuals who may have other agendas,
saying that, “When the activists forced the cancellation of the parade, my
organisation had to obey, but I consider that being made to apologise under
threat is a violation of basic human rights. The Rak Chiang Mai 51 group
initially concerned itself purely with political matters, and advocated
democracy. However, while the parade was still in the planning stages, their
representatives spoke with us many times, but did not listen to or respect
our opinions or our human rights and freedom of expression, which I consider
they have now violated.”
Kittinan added that, “Chiang Mai is advertised as a city of culture and
tourism, however, it seems that, at present, Rak Chiang Mai 51 are
controlling everything, even the security of visitors and foreign tourists.”
Director of the parade’s organisers, Mplus’ Pongthorn Chanlearn added that,
“What happened has been a huge learning curve for our organisation, and has
made apparent the need to further bridge understanding regarding sexual
rights and diversity with the general public. During this entire episode, we
have received a great deal of support from groups throughout Thailand. As a
result, the Sexual Diversity Network and many local organisers have decided
to commemorate February 21 annually nationwide in an attempt to promote
sexual rights and diversity. A fund has been set up to this effect, which
will also be used for legal costs in human rights lawsuits.”
Pongthorn, in conclusion, stated that his group will sit in meditation to
spread peace and charity to all, especially Rak Chiang Mai 51 and those who
are harming Thailand by their actions.
in Mae Hong Son
A man was arrested by Mae Hong Son local police on February 25,
after it was discovered that he had killed 5 people, including his deaf
mother and two other deaf women.
During questioning, Jor U stated, without showing remorse, that he had
killed the women because, “he did not like deaf people”. His record showed
that, whilst serving in the Burmese Army, he had murdered his commanding
officer and fled across the border into Thailand. He also admitted to
killing a Pang Moo villager, using a knife.
It was reported that, after the murder of his third female victim, Suay
Jing, 40, rumours had circulated about vampires and human flesh-eating
zombies, with inhabitants in Mae Hong Son province panicking and being
afraid to go out at night.
EGAT loses pollution lawsuit - heavy
damages awarded to plaintiffs
Five hundred Lampang-based plaintiffs in a pollution lawsuit brought
against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), crowded
into Chiang Mai’s Administrative Court on February 25 to hear judgement
passed in favour of their claim. The presiding judge, Jeerapat Klomsakul,
stated that the respiratory diseases of all plaintiffs in 19 separately
filed cases were caused by dispersal operations and leaks of pollutants at
EGAT’s lignite mine.
According to the judgement, since 1954 EGAT had operated the mine in a
manner that neglected the law, the effects of the mine’s operation on the
environment, and the effects of the pollution caused on people in the
surrounding communities. Jeerapat noted that quantities of sulphur dioxide
at concentrations as high as double the legal limit were released 279 times
during a period of 5 years and 7 months. Local residents affected have not
yet completely recovered, and will require regular medical attention.
The immediate area has accumulated a significant amount of pollution, which
is not yet cleared, and may cause further damage to residents’ health.
The judge ordered that compensation be paid by EGAT to each of the 500
plaintiffs in the amount of 1,000 baht per month, starting from the date the
claims were made until the age of 70 years is reached.
A further suit also received a primary ruling from Judge Pornchai
Manastsiripen, in that EGAT had seriously infringed the patent permit
granted for the lignite mine, thus infringing upon conditions referring to
protection of the environment. The infringements included changing mill
operations without permission.
Further regulations were breached by EGAT’s refusal to move nearby residents
to a safe distance from their operations and the affected area. The judge’s
ruling on this was that EGAT be forced to operate within the law as regards
EGAT must also remove polluted soil from the entire area, replacing it with
trees. The excavated soil must not be placed upwind of the new residential
area, and previously eradicated wetland plants must be re-established. A
buffer zone must be set up around the excavated soil, no less than 50 metres
away, and a biannual report must be made to the Environmental Audit Office.
A final ruling will be made on March 4.
President of the Mae Moh District Patient Rights Group, Prasai Pukpan,
stated that a further group from 4 local sub-districts had also filed a
claim with the Administrative Court for damages amounting to more than 3
billion baht. The judgement in both cases is being seen as a warning to EGAT
and other such organisations to consider carefully their obligations to
nearby residents and to comply with the law in all respects in future.
Drug dealer killed, two officers
wounded in shootout
A police officer from Wiang Haeng police station and a soldier from the Pha
Muang Task Force were shot and wounded by drug dealers during a pre-arranged
meeting intended to trap and arrest the dealers. Both men were taken to
Maharaj Nakhon hospital, where they were treated and are recovering.
Region 5’s Commissioner, Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom visits one of the injured
officers in hospital.
Pol. Sgt. Maj. Watcharaphong Sirirsarn and Sgt. Kraising Changthong had
contacted the drug dealer and arranged a meeting at Ban Pang Klang in order
to purchase a quantity of YaBa pills. A gunfight ensued when the dealer
realised he had been tricked, during which Watcharaphong was shot in the
leg, and Kraising received a bullet in his left arm.
Subsequently, the body of Arsuepa Laomee, 47, a Chiang Dao resident, was
found lying dead next to his motorcycle, with wounds to his chest. A bag
containing YaBa pills, an 11mm gun and five bullets were also found near the
After visiting the injured officers in hospital, Police Region 5’s
Commissioner, Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom, stated that, since he had taken up
his new position, he had noted that a number of gunshot injuries were being
sustained by officers during drugs raids, adding that strict drug
suppression and prevention measures must be increased to ensure that this
trend is reversed.
Thick smog affects visibility
at Lampang airport
Poor visibility caused by the heavy smog has prompted Lampang airport to
install special equipment to help improve visibility for pilots, according
to a senior airport official.
Airport director Siripong Krungwong said Lampang’s dense smog has reduced
visibility to only 10 kilometres making it difficult for take-offs and
landings. Normally, a pilot should be able to see the runway from a 20-30
The control tower has installed special communications equipment to alert
pilots about the airport’s location and provide landing directions,
Krungwong said. Airfield ground lighting services are now in full operation
to ensure aviation safety.
Meanwhile, Surapoj Kajjanasingh, director of the Lampang conservation
administration area, said more than 200 hot spots have been found in the
past three weeks. Bush fires set by villagers combined with scorching
weather to send a thick haze covering most of the province. As the level of
dust particles exceeded safety limits for the second day last week, the
authorities urged the public to stop burning activities in the forest and
In Chiang Mai itself there were no reports of any flight interruptions,
according to airport director Chaturongkapol Sodmanee. He said the thick
smog did not cause any visibility problem for the pilots and flights
The provincial chief of public health however has asked people with
respiratory problems, children and the elderly to stay indoors due to
concerns of health issues caused by poor air quality. (TNA)
Jimmy Carter to join Habitat for Humanity’s Chiang Mai build
(From left) Shannon Morrow, wife of Michael
Morrow, Michael Morrow, US Consul General, Chiang Mai, Sombat Kuen Kaew,
sub-district chief, Chuchard Keelapaeng, deputy governor of Chiang Mai
province, Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, Habitat for Humanity
Thailand, Eric John, US Ambassador to Thailand, and his wife Sofia are
the first to break ground at the Habitat for Humanity build site in
Children from Maung Len sub-district, Chiang
Mai, where the main site of the Mekong Build 2009 will take place,
perform at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Habitat for Humanity announced recently that its annual Jimmy
and Rosalynn Carter Work Project would be coming to Thailand for the
first time since its inception in 1984, as a result of its continuing
quest to address poverty housing in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project event takes place in a
different location every year, and has so far provided homes for over
10,000 people in the US, Canada, Mexico, Hungary, South Africa, South
Korea, the Philippines and India.
A site at Moo Baan Nong Kan Kru in Chiang Mai has been chosen for the
project’s “Mekong Build” initiative, and will serve as the main host and
anchor to a five-country event with additional builds taking place in
Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Yunnan Province of China. The ‘Mekong
Build’ is a 3-year campaign that will enable thousands of needy families
in the Mekong region to have decent shelter.
A ground-breaking ceremony took place on February 20 at the Chiang Mai
site, in order to begin preparing the land and foundations for an
intensive 5-day housing construction activity in November this year.
Handling the shovels at the auspicious event were Chuchard Keelapaeng,
deputy governor of Chiang Mai province, Eric John, US Ambassador to
Thailand, and his wife Sophia, and Michael and Shannon Morrow, the US
Consul General and his wife. Also helping to dig were Dr. Chainarong
Monthienvichienchai, chairman of Habitat for Humanity Thailand and a
member of Habitat’s international board, and Richard Hathaway,
Asia-Pacific vice president for Habitat for Humanity International.
Former US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter and his
wife, Rosalynn, will join the Chiang Mai local community, international
celebrities and a total of approximately 3,000 volunteers from Thailand
and around the world to build 82 homes to commemorate HM the King’s 82nd
birthday, which will be celebrated on December 5. The houses will serve
as decent homes for 82 low-income families in the area.
According to Dr. Chainarong, ‘Thailand’s National Housing Authority
estimates that nearly 8.2 million people live in sub-standard housing.
Their homes are made of flimsy materials, they lack adequate shelter
from the rain and sun, they have no proper water and sanitation
facilities and they cannot protect themselves from intruders. This
affects their health, their children’s education and their abilities to
earn a living and improve their quality of life.’
As with every other Carter Work Project, the event taking place between
November 15-20 is expected to bring more attention to the problem of
poverty housing – not only Thailand, but also elsewhere in the region –
with the hope that it will serve as a catalyst in influencing more
individuals and donors to take action in building more homes for the
The registration fee to participate as a building volunteer during the
event is $1,700 for international volunteers and $1,000 for Thai
citizens. This includes accommodation, transportation within Chiang Mai
and all meals during the 5-day building event. It also includes a
donation to the local program to continue to build more houses in
partnership with families in need. The fee for Thai citizens living in
Chiang Mai not requiring accommodation will be less. Apart from becoming
a build volunteer, anyone can participate in this effort by any amount
of donation in cash or kind. Volunteers who are able to assist with
logistics and translation to welcome and support the international
volunteers will be warmly welcomed.
For further information, please contact Habitat for Humanity
International on 026-320-415, ex. 5305, or visit the website on