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Red shirts prevent gay pride from taking place in Chiang Mai.

This was supposed to be the opening speech for the Chiang Mai gay pride march that was canceled by force by so called Red Shirt supporters of the ousted and exiled Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra .

The confrontation does not bode well for QGBLT rights in Thailand or the supposed rule of law as dozens of police stood by and did nothing as the gay community were intimidated by the thugs who prevented the peaceful march of community solidarity to take place.

Translation by Khun Tom of APN+ (thank you Tom)....

I'm delighted to see all of you in the second Chiang Mai Gay Pride this year.

All big cities in this world blend people from different places of origins, social status, beliefs and conviction. And Chiang Mai is no exception.

All these people, including gay, lesbians, transgender or bisexuals, have great contribution in turning Chiang Mai into a vibrant megalopolis.

It's hardly impossible that gay, lesbians, transgender or bisexuals will ever subvert the good culture deeply rooted in Chiang Mai because ALL of them are part of the culture all along for hundreds of years. They are our children, our grand-children, our relatives and our neighbors, who are usually the victims of discrimination and violence.

Chiang Mai Gay Pride's initial objective is to open the eyes of the society to see our brothers and sisters, who are by and large abandoned in the dark corner of the society. This Pride march consists of many groups and partner organizations who embrace gay, lesbians, transgenders or bisexuals and honor their equal rights. Their participation shows how different we are and it also shows that we can all live together, which hardly ever happen in our society.

A place that doesn't recognize how different people are and yet they can still walk hand in hand, is not worth being called 'city'.

And ignorance and disdain is far from being called 'refined culture'.

We all truly wish that one day, Chiang Mai megalopolis will ultimately become the city of diverse culture that all of us could take part in.

Shame that it just wasnt to be this year!

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Comment by Greg Gray on March 16, 2009 at 3:23am
Thanks Dr Usa for putting a very philosophical perspective and forward thinking approach to this issue. Yes it is bound to happen again and hopefully next time the community will be better prepared!

We live we learn!

Xx Greg
Comment by Usa Duongsaa on March 4, 2009 at 4:16am
Dear Greg and friends,

Thank you for the blog and the response on this horrible and tragic event. I wasn't there (having been wrapped in several things I wasn't even aware that the event was being organized) but I met with Khun Prasert (Daeng) who was not member of the organizers but went there and remained there to show support for the cause and the youth. It was horrifying as well as heartbreaking to hear that the Red Shirts continued to harass the participants, hurling abuses and spitting and throwing rocks and stuff at them, even when they sat down to meditate and pray and struggle to find peace and make sense out of what was happening. It just reminded me of another horrible and tragic event several months ago (also in Chiangmai) when the Red Shirts (led by the same leader) dragged an elderly man (who was father of the DJ of a Yellow Shirt community radio station) out of his car and killed him, with the police standing by watching.

From discussion with a number of friends, I agree that there're many political issues involved around this incident, both national and local politics and politics within the gay community.

But let's not be distracted by the political issues. After all, this is a human issue where I think we're all horrified by the incident because such inhuman things were committed to those who were only trying to express and embrace their humanity as much as embrace the humanity of others. I believe the Red Shirts would not have done what they did if they had recognized the common humanity they shared with those they harassed and threatened.

It is a challenge for us to remain SALTy and positive vis-a-vis those who committed such inhuman acts. But I think this is a good occasion for us to reflect on ourselves and how much we really believe that all of us are human beings who are capable of hope, change, growth, care, and response. And reflect on how we can find the love and care in our heart to forgive the Red Shirts for doing what they did? And continue to hope that they will be able to change and grow if they ever ask themselves "Are we human?"? And how can we show more care and support to our harassed friends so that they continue to hope and grow and care?

And while we cannot get the Red Shirts to attend the SALT visit to learn about/from the strengths of our GLBT community, will it be possible for our friends to do an AAR on the event? Asking the famous 4 simple questions of what should have happened, what actually happened, why things didn't turn out as expected, and what did we learn from it and how we can do it better the next time? For there WILL be the next time. As it says in the song, we shall overcome someday..

Let's try to turn the crisis into another opportunity for learning, growing, caring and supporting :-)

Comment by Greg Gray on March 3, 2009 at 3:41am
thats for the feedback Bernard and Lesley!
I think the issue with the Red Shirts was far more politically motivated then we are probably aware of - lots of rumors going around that it was some kind of personal vendetta by one of the organisers who felt snubbed cos they didnt get star billing or something to that effect. Irrespective it has left a bad stain (not to mention very disempowering) on the work of the guys who are doing such fantastic work with the MSM community in Chiang Mai - inparticular khun Tor of MPLUS and the guys at Violet Home.
Comment by Bernard Gardiner on March 2, 2009 at 12:11pm
Ironic that the red shirts are supposed to be pro-democracy. This looks like a case of political opportunism. The police's facilitation of the thugs is hardly surprising as Thaksin used to be the chief of police in Chaing Mai where he somehow managed to get very rich 'policing' the Golden Triangle. The Mardi Gras in Sydney is always led by 'Dykes on Bikes'....they are not easily imtimidated! I was at the march in Sydney that was broken up by police with hundreds of arrests (all charges were later dropped) which is now commorated by the Mardi Gras each year. Creating social space for the Mardi Gras co-incided with a major effort to clean up the New South Wales police force connections with organised crime.
Comment by Laurence Gilliot on February 24, 2009 at 8:40am
Waw impressive! I didn't know that it didn't go true, how terrible.
Sorry for all my gay and lesbian friends in Chiang Mai...


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