Caption: LGBT activists hold a protest and collect signatures to propose a marriage equality bill in Nov 2020

Women, Feminists and LGBTQ+ in the Thai protests

Summary

 

  • Fed up with Thai patriarchy, groups of Thai women, feminists, and LGBTQ+ from all walks of life united in the struggle against the political establishment led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and joined other pro-democracy groups in calling for monarchy reform.
     
  • The women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand helped nonviolent resistance by contributing to a more inclusive movement, through adding gender issues, reinterpreting politics and creating a safe space for participants. They also equipped the campaign with creativity and resilience.
     
  • Challenges ahead include how to get their messages across to broader sectors in Thai society, including some among in the pro-democracy protesters themselves. Their demands have yet to be fully achieved as the current government has made only limited concessions.

 1. Being a woman in Thailand

Throughout the two decades of political crisis, gender equality in Thailand has deteriorated. After the military coup in 2014, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha became Prime Minister of Thailand. Not long after he seized power, two British tourists were murdered on Ko Tao; the woman was also raped. What Prayut said shocked the world:

"They [tourists] think that Thailand is beautiful, safe and that they can do anything they want here. That they can put on their bikinis and go anywhere they want. I ask, can they get away with wearing bikinis in Thailand? Unless they are not beautiful?"

Under pressure, he apologized for the comment. Two years on, he still had not learned to communicate with the public. During his opening speech at an event promoting vocational education at the Impact Arena in 2016, he directly attacked the very idea of gender equality.

"Everyone says we must create equality — men and women deserve the same rights and can do the same good and bad things. Oh, if you all think so, Thai society will deteriorate!" said Gen Prayuth, shaking his head.

It was not known if he apologized for this comment. Whether he was sorry or not would mean very little considering the deep-rooted patriarchy in traditional Thai institutions, from schools, universities, and workplaces, to the cabinet, parliament, the military, and even the palace.

The 2021 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Reportranked Thailand 79th out of 153 countries in terms of gender equality. While Thailand achieved relatively high scores and rankings in educational attainment (0.992) health and survival (0.978) and economic participation (0.787) it ranked 134th in political empowerment with an abysmal score of 0.084.

Thailand has had its first female prime minister – Yingluck Shinawatra. Also the youngest prime minister of Thailand, she took office in 2011 only to be ousted by a military putsch in 2014. One of the reasons conservatives disliked her was because she was a 'stupid bitch’. Representation of women in recent cabinets and parliaments under the governments of Prayut Chan-o-cha has been meagre.

Women's economic lives improved in the 1990s out of the struggle for rights, but have remained stagnant since. The rights to 90 days of maternity leave was by labour unions in 1993 after a hard struggle. Children should be breastfed for at least six months, but the period of maternity leave has remained significantly less than this for almost two decades.

The most blatant expression of patriarchy is found in the crime statistics. The Ministry of Justice says that over the past three years, Thai prisons had received 10,000-15,000 sexual offenders, whose victims are almost all women, many of them teenage school students.

In 2020 alone, the Pavena Foundation received reports of more than 10,000 cases of violence against women and children in the form of rape, physical assault, trafficking, drug addiction, and unintended pregnancy. This was 3,000 more than the previous year. Frightening as these numbers are, many more go unreported.

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand despite its notoriety. In practice, sex workers have to bribe the police for protection. The police can turn against them any time, leading to stories of abuse of power, including 'sting operations' which the authorities prohibited in 2019 after a public backlash.

The problems of patriarchy reach as high as the palace itself. King Vajiralongkorn has been married five times with Thailand now under one queen and one royal consort. Many stories go unreported in Thailand, as they could constitute a violation of the lèse-majesté law and result in 15 years in prison.

The list goes on and on and on.

2. Being an LGBTQ+ in Thailand

Meanwhile, Thai society has been tolerant towards the LGBTQ+ community, but as Prachatai English pointed out, calling it a paradise for LGBTQ+ is hugely overestimated.

In 2013, the Thailand Tourism Authority launched its "Go Thai, Be Free" campaign to attract LGBT tourists. Bangkok has been called "Asia's gay capital" and is known for its gay nightlife scene, transgender beauty queens, and gender confirmation surgery.

However, this facade of acceptance is only the tip of the iceberg. Thailand promotes itself as a gay paradise, but it offers no protection for its LGBT population. Discussions of sex and sexuality are still taboo. Sex education is limited in school, and LGBT people live under intense pressure not to bring shame on their families.

The LGBT community in Thailand is tolerated as long as its members remain within specific social confines. In Thai media, the token "kathoey" or trans woman is rarely seen in any other role than comic relief and gay people are portrayed negatively or as stock characters. LGBT films are often banned, such as Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's Insects in the Backyard.

Even with the Gender Equality Act of 2015, there is little legal support for the LGBT community. Homosexuality is no longer a crime under Thai law, but the LGBT community still faces discrimination in the workplace, school, and home. There are many reports of LGBT people being denied promotion or fired from their jobs after disclosing their sexuality.

LGBT students face harassment and bullying from their teachers and peers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. A USAID/UNDP report cited a 2014 study conducted by UNESCO, Plan International, and Mahidol University, saying that a third of the 2000 LGBT students participating in the survey had been harassed. Only a minority had reported the bullying.

Transgender children are often abused by their families and punished for being trans. Under Thai law, a transgender person cannot legally change their title on their identity papers, even after gender confirmation surgery. Most schools and universities still do not officially recognize students' right to dress according to their gender identity.

Last but not least, same-sex couples still cannot legally marry. Therefore, they are denied certain rights afforded to heterosexual couples. They do not have the right to adopt a child, take their partner's name, access social benefits, make medical decisions on their partner's behalf, or obtain a marriage visa for a partner who does not hold Thai citizenship.

Rainbow flags could be seen in almost every protest in Thailand in 2020-2021.
Source: Prachatai

3. "Patriarchy shall perish, equality shall prosper."

While the problems piled up under Thai patriarchy, the political elite were still busy calculating how to prolong their status quo. In 2019, an election was held as a result of public pressure. The opposition Future Forward Party, which gained 6 million votes, became a significant threat to the establishment's mandate. The party was eventually dissolved by the courts. But Prayut did not know that he would soon have to face one of the biggest protests in Thai history.

After the dissolution of the Future Forward party, pro-democracy protests proliferated across Thailand. Fed up with prolonged political decadence, protestors said, "let it end in our generation." They focused on the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the drafting of a new constitution, and reform of the monarchy. Demands and tactics became increasingly diverse as the movement grew. Stalled by the Covid-19 outbreaks, the protests came back to haunt the establishment when infections declined.

With a middle-class mentality, many Thai women found polygamy at the top of the political hierarchy intolerable. LGBTQ+ persons also saw no place in the national discourse. With the declining economy, they experienced growing inequality in contrast with the luxurious lifestyles of the political elite. The system has been hurting them, so the feminists and LGBTQ+ groups joined the frontlines, calling for gender equality and a better standard of living.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, gender diversity groups would display rainbow flags and wear vivid clothes, joining many pro-democracy rallies. Many chanted the historic slogans "dictatorship shall perish, democracy shall prosper," but the motto "patriarchy shall perish, equality shall prosper" also appeared. The MeToo movement served as a backdrop in shaping their demands, including abortion rights, free sanitary pads, and ending sexual abuses.

The women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand helped nonviolent resistance by contributing to a more inclusive movement by adding gender issues, reinterpreting politics, and creating a safe space for participants. They also equipped the campaign with more tactics, creativity, and resilience. As pro-democracy protesters fought for freedom, justice, and equality, support from LGBTQ+ was indispensable to the democratic movement in Thailand.

4. Women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand

The women, feminist and LGBTQ+ movement is diverse, from well-established organizations to loosely structured campaigns, from older to younger generations, and from online to offline. Important groups include 1448 for All, Voice from Friends, Women for Freedom and Democracy (later renamed Feminist Liberation Front Thailand), Serithoey Plus (Free Gender TH), and FemTwit.

The feminist and LGBTQ+ movement in Thailand spans generations. Ratsamom, a group of mothers of activists, fought for the unconditional release of their children. The campaign also expanded in high schools. Bad Students, a student group that focuses on education reform, had significant involvement from feminist and LGBTQ+ students against sexual abuse in schools.

Not all women and LGBTQ+ in Thailand define themselves as feminists. However, many groups use their traditional roles in society to fight for freedom. Ratsamom mobilized the concept of motherhood in the struggle. The marginalized groups in Thai culture, like sex workers and LGBTQ+ persons, also seized the opportunity to fight for broader social and legal recognition by expressing their identities through the protest platforms.

The feminists and LGBTQ+ worked across diverse groups, including political groups like Khana Ratsadon, Free Youth, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, and UNME of Anarchy. While these political groups and the general public do not always welcome feminism, these women and LGBTQ+ activists and celebrities helped incorporate the idea into the platform.

Women and LGBTQ+ celebrities also became more vocal about politics, including Maria Poonlertlarp, Sumitta ‘Fai' Duangkaew, Focus Jeerakul, Kanatip 'Louk Golf' Soonthornrak, Kuljira 'Aey' Thongkong, and Inthira' Sine' Charoenpura. With the help of the internet and social media, political criticisms from celebrities reaches millions quickly and is very difficult to take down.

On Twitter, FemTwit would call out any behaviour or speech relating to toxic masculinity. Many Thai pages on the internet and social media, including Thai Consent, Spectrum and Feminista, also used their platforms to shed light on feminism and LGBTQ+ issues. When the protests erupted, these pages covered from a gender perspective the stories the mainstream media tried to avoid. Various actors in the movement helped make sure that calls for democracy and gender equality were intertwined.

5. Contributions to the pro-democracy movement

Women, feminists, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand have contributed to the pro-democracy movement in at least three ways. First, they help make the pro-democracy movement more inclusive. Second, they provide the protests with more creativity. Third, by making the movement more inclusive and creative, they help improve the resilience of the nonviolent campaign against government repression.

Sirabhob' Raptor' Attohi
Source: Prachatai

5.1 Making the movement more inclusive

The women, feminists, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand have helped make the democratic movement in Thailand more inclusive by adding gender issues, reinterpreting politics, and creating a safe space to promote public participation. As Sirabhob' Raptor' Attohi, a co-leader of Serithoey Plus, said, "a fight for democracy does not have only men."

5.1.1 Adding gender issues

Gender diversity protesters sing a Thai version of A Rapist in Your Path, calling for the protection of women and LGBTQ+ persons in March 2021
Source: Prachatai

Throughout 2020-2021, feminists and LGBTQ+ helped add a wide range of gender issues to the Thai pro-democracy movement. Some were influenced by the MeToo movement globally and had been part of public discussions before the protests. These include:

  • Abortion rights. In Aug 2020, Kornkanok Khumta, a representative from  Women for Freedom and Democracy, gave a speech on stage at Democracy Monument calling for abortion rights. She said that Section 301 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes abortion, was unconstitutional.

  • Blood donations. Despite frequent shortages, Thai hospitals and Thai Red Cross society still do not accept blood donations from LGBTQ+ persons, claiming that they could have transmittable diseases. In Nov 2020, Seri Thoey Plus held a rally, referring to the issue as one of their demands with the hashtag #AcceptKatoeyBlood.

  • Decriminalization of sex work. In Sep 2020, the Empower Foundation launched an online petition to collect signatures to abolish the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act. This legislation has led to abuse of power by the police against Thai sex workers, making them vulnerable to extortion and persecution.

  • Free sanitary pads. Many did not like that sanitary pads in Thailand were made subject to a 7% value-added tax. In Jan 2020, an activist group launched an online campaign on Change.org. With thousands of supporters, they handed a letter to a parliamentary committee, demanding the government provide free sanitary pads as a part of state welfare.

  • Legalization of same-sex marriage. In Jul 2020, the LGBTQ+ activists in parade costumes protested against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government. They demanded the government amend the Civil and Commercial Code instead of passing a separate Civil Partnership bill that will enable civil unions but still discriminate against LGBT marriages.

  • Recognition of LGBTQ+ students in schools. In Jul 2020, Bad Students held a rally at the Ministry of Education, shouting, "we are not freaks." They handed a letter to the Permanent Secretary, calling for an end of hairstyle regulations and compulsory heterosexual uniforms and for better understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ students.

  • Ending sexual abuse. In Nov 2020, Nalinrat Tuthubthim, a 20-year-old student, held a placard reading "I have been sexually abused by teachers. School is not a safe place" during a pro-democracy rally in Bangkok. The action led to victim-blaming comments and solidarity support, raising awareness about the struggle against misogyny in Thai schools. Around the same time, a female protester in underwear held a protest sign exposing the hypocrisy of having a compulsory female uniform yet being seen as "provoking." In March 2021, gender diversity protesters also sang a Thai version of A Rapist in Your Path, calling for the protection of women and LGBTQ+ persons.

  • Violations in women's prisons. Panusaya' Rung' Sithijirawattanakul, a protest leader, was detained in Oct 2020. Her long dyed hair was cut short and re-dyed black. Also, she was told to replace her glasses with a pair with a plain black frame. In November, a group of activists formerly detained at the Central Women Correctional Institution gathered to protest, pointing out the violations and demanding the separation of detainees awaiting trial from convicts according to international law. They displayed a banner reading "All they could do to us", the title of a book written by Prontip Mankhong, an activist sentenced to 2 years in jail under the lèse majesté law. The book describes vividly what it is like to be an activist in a Thai women's prison.

5.1.2 Reinterpretation of politics

In many cases, the women, the feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups did not just add gender into the equation. They also offered a different interpretation of the political demands to encourage participation. While it could be challenging to convey their messages, it is necessary for gender equality in the long run.

In 2020-2021, the main three demands of the Thai pro-democracy protesters were the prime minister's resignation, the drafting of a new constitution, and reform of the monarchy. The women, the feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups helped reinterpret these demands to be more inclusive by using various protest tactics.

It was obvious to Thai women and LGBTQ+ communities that Prayut was bad for them. The protesters also realized that the current constitution allows Prayut and the unelected senators to stay in power and prevent pro-gender equality legislation. The current constitution, drafted by the junta's aides, also enabled the Constitutional Court to strip the MP status from Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, an MP of the Move Forward Party who promotes LGBTQ+ rights. By taking to streets with pride flags and colourful outfits, the action speaks for itself. Or, as a gay protest shirt put it succinctly, "I love dicks, not dictators."

Chumaporn ‘Waddao’ Taengkliang
Source: Prachatai

The feminist and the LGBTQ+ groups also have had a say in monarchy reform. In Aug 2020, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, the royal consort, was stripped of her titles for alleged "disloyalty". Amid the calls for monarchy reform at a big protest in Sep 2020, Chumaporn ‘Waddao’ Taengkliang gave a speech with a pride flag in her hand, asking anyone who would make fun of the royal consort to rethink.

Chumaporn explained that seen through a feminist lens, gender, the political system and the royal palace are intertwined. Therefore, Thai women, even concubines in the royal palace, are all victims who should not be humiliated. “This is called injustice. This is called injustice under a patriarchal structure,” she said.

“If you all truly believe that humans are equal, then believe that the voices of women and other genders are as valuable as those of men,” said Chumaporn. “If you support all ten reforms of the monarchy, I ask for one more, which is the need to abolish the patriarchal structure under the monarchy.”

With the spread of the Covid-19 and its economic impacts in 2020-2021, the topic of the welfare state and labour rights received more attention from the Thai public. Restart Democracy or REDEM, a campaign by the student group Free Youth, held a protest emphasizing labour rights and reducing the state budget for the monarchy. The slogan “workers are the ones who build the nation, not kings” spread online and on the streets.

To build on the concept, on 2 July 2021, Sirisak Chaited, an LGBTQ+ activist, gave a speech at a protest site saying that “prostitutes built the nation, not kings.” Reminding listeners that prostitutes brought billions into the Thai tourist industry and are the heads of many families, Sirisak called for the legalization of sex work and economic relief from the government.

Making the central demands relatable to the ordinary people is a challenge for any political campaign. The feminist reinterpretation of the main three political demands contributed to the solution. From the angle that “the personal is political,” women, feminists and LGBTQ+ did not just reinterpret the political demands, but also the boundary of politics itself.

Pride flags with the message "Marriage equality" hung above the Ratchaprasong Intersection during the 28 November 2021 protest.
Source: Prachatai

5.1.3 Creating safe space within the movement

Ratsadance's performance at the Rachaprasong Intersection helps reduce tension among pro-democracy protesters.(25 Oct 2020) Source: Prachatai

The gender diversity groups added gender demands and offered a different version of politics to the protest platform to make the movement more inclusive. However, concerns for the safety of women and LGBTQ+ activists and protesters remain a massive challenge. These undermine not only the movement’s legitimacy but also discourage public participation in civil resistance campaigns.

Threats against women could be seen on both online and offline platforms. In Jun 2020, Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, a protest leader, admitted that a member of Revolution Dome, a student activist group, was suspected of committing sexual abuse. It was one of many cases involving female student activists in the past few years. These stories were often highlighted by right-wing outlets to discredit the pro-democracy movement.

In Oct 2020, when protests were at their peak, Thai media outlets reported that women protesters were at risk. Pictures of their private parts were shared on exclusive online groups at 299 baht. The Voices From Friends found that 65 out of 1,172 participants said pictures or videos of them were taken without consent in a single protest rally. A Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand's activist also noted that LGBTQ+ protestors were a target of ridicule in the protests.

Sexual violations within the pro-democracy movement are just an extension of sexual violations elsewhere in Thai society, in families, schools, and the workplace. In the majority of cases, the perpetrators were known to the victims. However, what recently became the biggest problem was the police crackdown and unlawful arrests during political rallies. Since the latter half of 2021, police repression has been a significant threat, as tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, and even real bullets have been widely deployed.

To ensure that the protests are a safe domain for expression and play a leading role in realizing gender equality, the Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand deployed several measures. The Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand (formerly named Women for Freedom and Democracy) set up Anonymous Meeting Points where women and LGBTQ+ individuals can gather to join a protest as a group. Using online platforms such as Twitter and Telegram, staff established a communication channel between the activists and the protesters to monitor the latter’s status and ensure that reliable people could help in the event of danger when in a protest.

The activists also asked participants to fill in a Survey Monkey form to obtain basic information, including age, medical condition, and contact information. At the end of a protest, the data was deleted to protect their privacy. Through these applications, protesters could check in and out of any political rallies to let their trusted ones know their status. The Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand also invented Secure Rangers, a team of volunteers with rainbow badges, to roam protest sites to ensure protesters’ safety.

Seeing the importance of these systems, many volunteered to join the activist group, contributing to the movement-building effort. When police repression recently became more severe, these measures became crucial for women and LGBTQ+ and protesters in general. When a police crackdown took place, the Anonymous Meeting Points were used to locate the protesters. Secure Rangers would shift their focus to facilitating the exit of people from the protest site.

Apart from Anonymous Meeting Points and Secure Rangers, the Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand recently created Krongkaokang, a monitoring network that reported the field situation live on social media. The information collected was fed into a risk assessment programme, dividing a protest site into zones based on risk levels. Krongkaokang helped ensure that protesters were well-informed about the situation and could more safely participate in a political rally. Krongkaokang also functioned to combat state disinformation to discredit the pro-democracy protesters.

Behind these activities is the idea that mass participation is the key to victory in a nonviolent struggle. To secure the strategic objective, a safe space must be created to reduce the participation cost. Chumaporn made it clear that “if…the space is not safe,… fewer people will join. … We want to create a safe space in every aspect so that as many people as possible can come out to raise their voice.”

5.2 Creativity

Jatuporn Sae-Un reports to Yannawa Police Station after being charged with impersonating the queen during the catwalk protest in October 2020.
Source: Prachatai

Women and gender diversity groups make the movement more inclusive, but they also equip the protests with creativity and resilience. Feminists and LGBTQ+ in Thailand, as in other parts of the world, have been cultural inventors. With the patriarchal structure squeezing them to the edges of society, they become one of the most creative groups expressing their identity and waging defiance.

The most visible was aspect has been their costumes and use of cultural references. To capture media attention, the streets of Bangkok in 2020 were often the site of drag queen parades, pride flags, and colourful outfits. In July, LGBT activists held a demonstration. They chanted a dialogue adapted from Haunting Me (Hor Taew Tak), a famous Thai comedy about LGBT people directed by Poj Arnon, making fun of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government.

The Feminist and LGBTQ+ groups were also skilful in using art in pro-democracy protests. In Oct 2020, they were frontliners in an activity on Silom Road called the People’s Runway, where a catwalk performance mocked Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya after it was revealed that the government had been subsidizing her fashion brand. Many LGBTQ+ activists wore traditional Thai costumes to join the catwalk protest.

Another example worth mentioning is Rasadance, a group that liberates their bodies through dance regardless of gender or age. It began when five protesters wanted to disperse tension at the Victory Monument by performing dance covers of K-Pop songs. The video clips later went viral. Korean media outlets also interviewed them. Among the performances included a dance cover of Into The New World by Girls’ Generation and Miniskirt by AOA, with the lyrics “Don’t tell me how to dress.”

In Dec 2020, a gay couple kissed in front of parliament to shed light on the legalization of same-sex marriage. The skit received massive media attention, with support from liberal allies and outcries from the conservatives. Faced with a dilemma, Parliament Speaker Chuan Leekpai ordered the matter to be investigated, only to face more public backlash from the protesters, mobilizing more support for same-sex marriage.

5.3 Resilience

Since participation, inclusivity, creativity, and resilience works in an interconnected logic, Thai women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups also helped contribute to Thailand's pro-democracy movement in terms of resilience. First, by making the movement more inclusive, people are more likely to participate. Having more people means that the campaign can continue the struggle when the government deploys repressive measures.

Adding gender issues and reinterpreting politics helps ensure that the movement has something to talk about to sustain or put more pressure on the establishment. For instance, when leading activists were arrested in late 2020, the mothers of political activists known as Ratsamom organized various activities to call for their children’s release when political gatherings were difficult. When Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul was detained, the Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand group launched a campaign to demand the rights of female detainees to be respected.

Creating safe spaces also helps to contribute to resilience. By creating Anonymous Meeting Points, Secure Rangers, and Krongkaokang, the feminist and LGBTQ+ groups have helped ensure that protesters can join a protest and return home more safely, making it more likely that they will join the next protest. When protesters are arrested, these systems mean that police cannot easily bring false charges. In coordination with other groups, this makes it more easy for legal teams to monitor and provide support.

Second, equipped with creativity, the movement has more ways to continue the struggle. Artistic expression has been beneficial in resisting police crackdowns. As cultural inventors, the LGBTQ+ communities made pro-democracy protests more colourful with fancy outfits. Ratsadance also used dance to reduce tension at protests so that they did not develop into riots. These measures do not prevent crackdowns by themselves, but the peaceful image of the movement can make it more costly to justify a crackdown on protesters, making repression more likely to backfire.

6. Challenges ahead

Mimi (alias), 17, was among many gender equality activists charged with violating the Emergency Decree and Public Assembly Act.
Source: Prachatai

After all the struggles of 2020-21, none of the demands has been fully achieved. In only a few can progress be seen. Legalization of same-sex marriage has got nowhere. The Civil Partnership Bill was stalled after the cabinet “underestimated some of the very conservative voices that exist in the parliament”. Meanwhile, abortion has been legalized only within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and after almost two decades of campaigning, maternity leave was extended from 90 to 98 days.

These small changes come at the expense of criminal charges against activists. For instance, Jatuporn Sae-Un, an LGBTQ+ activist, was charged under the lèse-majesté law for allegedly impersonating the queen during the catwalk protest in October 2020. Mimi (alias), a 17-year-old gender equality activist, was also charged with violating the Emergency Decree and Public Assembly Act for giving a speech during a protest at Ratchaprasong intersection in Oct 2020.

The feminist and LGBTQ+ protests have revealed the harsh reality that patriarchy is in all domains of social life – even at protest sites. Many protesters also thought that the movement should focus on getting rid of the establishment first and address other reforms later. Therefore, not all pro-democracy protesters have welcomed the feminist and LGBTQ+ agenda into the campaign.

However, the feminist and LGBTQ+ groups have had so much to offer to the pro-democracy movement in Thailand. More internal dialogue is needed among the pro-democracy groups to stay united against the persistent authoritarianism in Thailand. The feminist and LGBTQ+ groups think that gender equality is indispensable in a democracy, and they must have their say.

“Straights who come should have learned and understood more about the problem of gender inequality and our demands, because in the end, the concept of democracy is that all human beings have equal rights,” said Sirabhob Attohi in an interview with Way Magazine after a big protest in Jul 2020.

“So if you understand the injustice that happens to the working class, why don’t you understand the injustice that women and LGBTQ+ have to face, even though it is the same inequality?” asked Sirabhob. “So we need to demand these things at the same time. We don’t have to set priorities of what is more or less important. We can fight all issues at the same time.”

*Prachatai Editorial Team contributes to this report.

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