The House of Representatives is expected to consider a same-sex civil union bill later this year. Gender rights activist Chumaporn Taengkliang of the Anjaree group tells The Nation's Pravit Rojanaphruk about its prospects and what it would mean for Thailand. Some excerpts:
Do you think Thailand will see the bill passed into law?
Some Members of Parliament [who support the bill] have asked us to gather up to 10,000 signatures in order to make the push more substantial. This will also allow the public to become members of the subcommittee. Those in civil society think a wider discussion is needed to draft a bill that would incorporate the rights of transgender people that is not covered by the current bill. The proposed bill only recognises the rights of gay and lesbian people to enter a legal partnership.
Thailand still lacks an identity law that would guarantee the gender rights of transgender people. However, the MPs think it should start from a simple, limited step.
Do you expect any group to be particularly against the bill?
No group has come out to oppose it publicly yet, but we expect there to be opposition both inside and outside the Parliament. Parents may be worried that it will set a trend for their children and teachers might think they will have more work to do. In reality, the bill doesn't teach people to become homosexual, it merely guarantees their rights.
Some might argue that supporting such a law is 'abnormal' or goes against nature. How would you react?
Are they abnormal? We can't deny that people with different sexual preferences already exist. The World Health Organisation overturned its earlier stance stating that homosexual people were abnormal. As for the United Nations, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has spoken out about protecting everybody's rights. Last year, the UN set up a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) department in New York and in March, the group launched its first study in Thailand.
What will society in general gain from the law?
More people will have their rights guaranteed. You do not lose anything if you are not lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT]. But if your child or your friends are LGBT, they will have their rights protected under the new law.
How is the situation in Thailand compared to the rest of Asia?
There are three countries in Asia currently pushing for similar gender rights - Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. If we push it through first, we will become pioneers in the Asia-Pacific region. The process in Vietnam is still in its inception as they are trying to petition the court, while in Taiwan it's about rewriting the marriage law. Thailand has the best chance, if it is put for debate in the House.
Is there anything Thailand can learn from the ongoing push for same-sex marriages in the United States?
In the States, the battle has been long fought and each state can pass or amend its own law. Thailand, however, is more like France 10 or 20 years ago.
In the US, the struggle was part of Barack Obama's policy. But for us Thais, our support for gay and LGBT rights is fake.
We accept them as part of business and as tourist attractions, but in many cases, children have to leave their homes in order to assert their gender identity.