LGBTQ rights activist faces transphobic death threat

LGBTQ rights activist Nada Chiyajit says she has received threats of violence and transphobic messages after she gave legal assistant to a young transwoman who was allegedly blackmailed by a reporter.

Nada said that she was contacted by the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand (RSAT) on 27 January, about the case of “Looknoo” (pseudonym), a transwoman in Loei who was on local news after she ate at a shabu shabu restaurant and did not pay.

On 27 January, the RSAT contacted Nada saying that Looknoo was being threatened by a man claiming to be a reporter seeking an interview. At that point the incident with the restaurant was already settled, as Looknoo had apologized to the owner and paid what she owed. Looknoo therefore refused to be interviewed. She also felt her family has been affected enough by what happened.

Nada said that the man threatened Looknoo and tried to blackmail her into giving an interview, telling her that he knows about money she owes 16 people as a result of mistakes in managing her business, and that she owes money to the hotel she was staying at. The man told Looknoo that he will publish the story if she does not let him interview her and let him coordinate the settlement between her and the people she owes money to.

He also found out her personal details, contacted her family, and waited in front of her house. Looknoo started recording her phone calls with him out of fear that she would face further threats. She then asked the RSAT for legal assistance and travelled to Bangkok to meet Nada, who is a legal advisor.

Nada said she called the man and spoke to him. At first, he claimed to be working for many news agencies and did not give her his full name, but when Nada pressed further, he claimed to be from Thairath TV.

Nada said she does not understand why the reporter was so intent on getting an interview with Looknoo, as the incident with the restaurant has already been settled, and the other disputes can be settled via legal means. She said that, during the phone call, he was very angry that he was refused the interview and told her not to interfere. Nada said the man said to her "I drove 300 km there. She can't refuse to let me interview her. Who am I? Who is this katoey? She's a liar. If I publish this information, she might even die."

Nada also spoke to Looknoo’s mother, who said that she paid for Looknoo to stay at the hotel because Looknoo’s stepfather has beaten her for being transgender, and that she has always paid the hotel bill until the family began facing issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the family is already in the process of settling the debt. Looknoo’s mother also said that Looknoo started her business at 19 because she felt the need to prove herself in order to be accepted by her own family, but the business failed, leaving her in debt.

On 1 February, both Nada and Looknoo received threatening and transphobic messages from two Facebook accounts, which also included death threats and demands that Looknoo delete the recordings of the phone calls.

The messages Looknoo received said “if the recordings get out, you’ll be in the ground” and “do you want to be in a well?” as well as “I fucking hate katoeys. When will you all be gone?” Meanwhile, one of the message Nada received said “don’t mess with my business and act like a good person helping people if you don’t want to be like that katoey.” This caused concerns for Nada as she read the message to mean that she should stop if she doesn’t want to be “in the ground” or “in a well". 

Nada believes the messages to be from the reporter, as it contains details of their conversations and the person who sent the messages knows that Looknoo recorded her phone calls with the reporter.

On Thursday morning (4 February), Nada and Looknoo went with a representative from the Rights and Liberties Protection Department to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD). However, the TCSD said that the case is not covered by the Computer Crimes Act and that they will have to file a police complaint.

Nada said that she and Looknoo will notify the police, and that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department will make arrangements to ensure their safety. She has lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission, and said that they will also file complaints with journalism trade associations, as well as with the management of Thairath TV.

Nada said that this is the first time she has faced threats of violence as an activist, and that she and Looknoo are both very stressed and fear for their safety. She also said that what happened and the stories published about Looknoo have worsened her domestic violence situation.

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