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UTOPIA
Utopia Awards 2004

sponsored in part by

             

Regency Park Hotel, Bangkok

TQPR Thailand

Roxy Bar & Club


The 5th annual Utopia Awards were held on Friday, November 19, 2003 at Roxy Bar & Club in Bangkok, to give recognition to individuals and organizations which have contributed to improving the quality of life for gay, lesbian, and transgendered communities in Asia. Hosting this year's Awards were Thai Senate candidate Natee Teerarojjanapongs and Professor Douglas Sanders. The Award ceremony was timed to kick off Bangkok Pride weekend. This year's honorees were selected from Nepal, Malaysia, and Thailand.

This year's 5th annual award ceremony also coincided with Utopia's 10th Anniversary. Utopia was founded in 1994 by Singaporean, American, and Thai parters with the goal of creating positive social alternatives for gays and lesbians in Asia. The Utopia Asia website is the Internet's oldest and most popular English-language resource for the multi-faceted homosexual subcultures of the region.

The unique design of the Utopia Award (above right) incorporates the shape of a lotus bud, hand-glazed with the six colors of the gay pride rainbow, using the techniques of classic Thai benjarong porcelain.


all images are copyright 2004 by Utopia.
Please contact us for permission to reproduce.

Sunil Pant of Nepal's Blue Diamond SocietyThe evening's first Utopia Award was presented to BLUE DIAMOND SOCIETY. Nepal's first LGBT rights group, founded in 2001, Blue Diamond is a rapidly expanding community-based organization which works on HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy services for all sexual minorities in Nepal. It operates a drop-in centre, a free STD clinic and does outreach work, having already established informal networks in more than 15 cities throughout the country. The 3rd of its annual pride parades was held in Katmandu in August 2004, and more than 50 Nepalese women have now joined its lesbian, bisexual and transgender support group set up over a year ago. Blue Diamond is working in a country where sexual minorities face extortion, expulsion from family, rape, arbitrary detention, blackmail and murder. Blue Diamond's award was accepted by its founder and driving force, Sunil Pant who has been tireless in focusing the world's attention on violations of the human rights of these minorities - most recently the arbitrary arrest of 39 Blue Diamond members in August 2004.

Billy Wong of Long Yang Club InternationalThe second award of the evening was given to BILLY WONG. The first Long Yang Club was founded in London in 1983 to provide a friendly and supportive social environment for gay Asians and non-Asians. The Club was named after Lord Long Yang, the King of Wei's favourite during the Chinese Zhou Dynasty, seen by later generations in China as a paragon and symbol of romantic male love. Billy Wong, a Malaysian from Ipoh who had seen enormous value in the Club's activities, hit in 1992 upon the idea of 'going global', and founded the Club's international wing, the LYCI. Since then, as LYCI's International Coordinator, he has overseen the founding of Long Yang Clubs in over 35 cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Manila and Bangkok. Billy has given up huge amounts of his time to help fledgling Clubs, and for many years he paid for the expense of doing this, and of maintaining the website, out of his own pocket. He has helped to build the world's largest network of gay Asian/non-Asian groups.

Our third award honored PAKORN PIMTON. Pakorn is best known in Thailand as a dancer, choreographer, and as a member of the Thai acting group Two-Eight. After doing grass roots AIDS education for 9 years, he became active in Glum Gay Tan Pai AIDS, a group of performers that focus on AIDS prevention and visit correctional facilities to educate prisoners, one of Thailand’s most overlooked risk groups. In 1999, Pakorn founded and helped coordinate the kingdom’s first pride festival, the Bangkok Gay Festival, which culminated with Thailand's first pride parade on Silom Road. Pakorn now works as a consultant for the new Bangkok government, focusing on education to increase awareness of issues relevant to gays and lesbians. In this role he has been helping to disseminate reading material about gay issues to more than 500 libraries, to facilitate regular public lectures, and to set up information hotlines.

Our fourth award was presented to POONSAK SANCHAN. The first Phuket Gay Festival was held in 1999 shortly after Bangkok's first festival. A coalition of gay business and website owners organized the first parade. Poonsak Sanchan, known affectionately as Daeng, was one of the original founders and has continued at the helm of the Festival. As Phuket's unofficial gay ambassador, Daeng has managed to gain consistent support from the local police, the Mayor and other political leaders for Phuket's annual event, with the 6th annual parade slated for early 2005. On the beach with a megaphone, from a public stage, in the press, or marching at the front of the parade, Daeng is an out and proud voice for the community year after year. The 2004 parade had nearly 1,000 marchers, including school bands and community members, and was enjoyed by over 30,000 members of the public.

Our final award of the evening was presented to JIM LUMSDEN. For years Jim has been notable for his philanthropic activities, in keeping with his philosophy of having fun while helping others. In 2000 he joined with other gay business owners in Pattaya and proposed that they organize a year-round series of charity events, culminating in a pride parade on World AIDS Day. The first Pattaya Gay Festival that year was a spectacular success, and throughout each succeeding year an array of events has taken place under Festival auspices. Jim can be found at the microphone at all these events, urging the participants to contribute to the chosen Festival charities and leading by example with his own generous contributions. To date over ten million Baht has been raised for the AIDS charity HEARTT 2000, the Naklua Drug Rehabilitation Centre, and other charities. In 2003, Jim was awarded Rotary's Paul Harris Fellowship by the business community in Pattaya, in recognition of his tireless work for humanitarian causes.

Scenes from the 2003 Utopia Awards...


Acapella choir, Siam Harmony, opened the evening with Over the Rainbow, In My Life and One Voice.

Lee Harris, Chairman of Bangkok Pride
Lee Harris, Chairman of Bangkok Pride 2004.


Natee Teerarojjanapongs, Professor Douglas Sanders, and Sunil Pant
Emcee's for the evening -- Thai AIDS activist and senate candidate, Natee Teerarojjanapongs, and Professor Douglas Sanders -- with Sunil Pant of Nepal's Blue Diamond Socitey.


Winners and Emcees of the 5th Annual Utopia Awards
One final chorus line for the press.

Last year's awardees were Thai Senator Jon Ungpakorn, Tawianese lesbian activist Wang Ping, Hong Gay gay AIDS activist Chung To, and Thai kick-boxing champion Parinya Jaroenphon.

For more information and photos from last year's award ceremony, please click here


 

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