THAILAND - Jun 5, 2004
In reaction to a sensationalized front page report in a mass-circulation newspaper yesterday, Thai GLBT groups have immediately denounced moves by the Culture Ministry to flaunt the Thai constitution and begin to officially discriminate against homosexuals. Deputy Permanent-Secretary, Kla Somtrakul, while denying that a hiring ban actually exists for homosexual civil servants, confirmed in the press that a letter will shortly be sent to all of the Kingdom's television stations asking them to eliminate portrayals of "sexually deviant" homosexual messages.
Munthana Adisayathepkul, webmaster of the popular Lesla.com website, criticized the Thai Rath newspaper for insensitivity and mistruths. ''Whoever made these mistakes [in the article], it's always us [homosexuals] who get hurt,'' she lamented.
Kamolset Kenggarnrua, of Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand, an advocacy group promoting the health and rights of gay people, said that the report had left the GLBT community reeling in a state of shock.
Gay characters and themes in Thai entertainment are widely popular, with a number of groundbreaking TV programs and feature films that have moved beyond the stereotype of exaggerated drag which is a staple of television variety shows and soap operas. Most recently, Thai film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul was honored with a Cannes 2004 Jury Prize, a first for Thai film, for his new movie "Tropical Malady," whose story centers around lovers who happen to be gay.
"There is a third sex in the world and TV shows merely reflect reality," commented Yutthana Lophanpaibul, an openly gay director.
A producer from RS Promotion, Itthipat Rattanapanu, said that cutting all appearances homosexual people was impossible and would ruin the flavor of the programs.
Dr Taveesilpa Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the Mental Health Department, which only recently (Dec 2002) made an official announcement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, was quoted in The Nation newspaper as saying that the cause of homosexuality "possibly results from an abnormal state during pregnancy due to hormone and chemistry in brain" and that watching homosexual behavior on television could spur people to act on homosexual tendencies. Dr. Wisanuyothin did not cite any respected scientific sources for his bizarre theories.
Anurak Jureemas, the Minister of Culture, told The Nation that individuals had to be careful about expressing themselves as the ministry is the Kingdoms "cultural watchdog". He said individuals must also respect the rules of society. He did not comment on why homosexuals were being singled out from the rest of society for scolding by members of his Ministry, nor did he point out that Thai culture is traditionally tolerant of the wide range of human sexual orientation and that homosexuality is largely a non-issue for most Thai.