The Rainbow Sky Association has said that it will no longer file a defamation charge against Sirisak ‘Ton’ Chaited for returning its Ardhanarishvara Award. It also apologized for adding to misunderstandings but gave reassurances that its President did not say anything to undermine LGBTQ+ protesters in a panel held by the Thai Pakdee political party that wants to separate the issues of gender recognition and democracy.
The Rainbow Sky Association said that other comments against protesters were beyond its control when its President joined the panel on 8 December. Staff from its human rights department were also asked to hold protest signs against LGBTQ+ protesters which they accepted reluctantly. A press conference will be held on 23 January at Grand Palazzo Hotel for further explanation of what happened.
On 16 January, 413 signatures were collected in support of Sirisak Chaited, a gender diversity activist, who faced a 40-million-baht defamation claim from the Rainbow Sky Association. Sirasak decided to return his Ardhanarishvara Award to the Association after its President joined an ultraroyalist panel, demonizing LGBTQ+ protesters who last year demanded political reform.
The signatures from 360 individuals and 73 organizations were collected by the Feminist Liberation Front Thailand. The statement reaffirmed Sirasak’s right to criticize in good faith and called the Association’s move an example of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), a claim which the Association later denied.
Sirisak told Matichon Online that he had received tremendous support in terms of mental health, legal advice, lawyers, and financial costs if legal action really was taken. The support came from organizations such as the Feminist Liberation Front Thailand, Swing Foundation, Manushya Foundation, Pride Club, and Empower Foundation.
“[They] really make me more powerful,” said Sirisak.
The statement was released after the Rainbow Sky Association said that they would take legal action against Sirisak. Kittinun ‘Danny’ Daramadhaj, the Association’s President, also posted on Facebook that they would demand compensation of 40 million baht after Sirisak announced the return of his Ardhanarishvara Award.
The Rainbow Sky Association said in a later statement that Kittikun did not try to frame LGBTQ+ protesters as anti-monarchy or a group easily manipulated by politicians, claiming that Sirisak made false accusations in their interview with GenderMatters on 12 January. Prachatai found that Sirisak did not refer to Kittikun in the statement in question since it was rather a general view towards the panel.
Sirisak announced the return of his award on 9 January, one month after Kittikun participated in a panel titled LGBT+ are not Rude People; Mobs’ Behaviour Obscures Freedom of Gender featuring Kerdchoke Kasemwongjit, Deputy Director-General of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and Warong Dechgitvigrom, the leader of the right-wing Thai Pakdee party, who made several comments which led Sirisak to take action.
“The image of the LGBT in the last couple of years, after political groups started to make a push through the LGBT, it turned out that the LGBT has an anti-monarchy image. This is my feeling,” said Warong. “Danny insists that majority of the LGBT are reasonable, and not rude people. They can make a living for themselves. To make things clear, I am holding this panel to explain why the big picture sees the LGBT as anti-monarchy.”
According to Sirisak’s FB post, a staff member from the human rights department of the Association held up a sign which said “Rude mobs will hurt the majority of LGBT+” during the panel debate. Kittikun, in remarks that the association later called in their statements politically neutral, said that dictatorship does not exist in Thailand and democracy does not have to come from protest.
“I think that the issue of democracy here, it can start at home, … no need to take to the streets,” said Kittkun. “Our country has had no such a thing as dictatorship. It has an issue between democracy and even more democracy. ... So it leads to a problem that the people who receive less democracy try to do something by their demands and push it to the term dictatorship.”
Sirisak said that he was disappointed by the panel. In returning the award, he said that the Association has neatly undermined human rights of LGBTQ+ people and democracy in Thailand by helping categorize LGBTQ+ protesters as rude, unreasonable people who are not able to make a living for themselves and who are easily manipulated by anti-monarchy political groups.
Sirisak said that the symbolic act was an expression of the idea that people do have the right to protest according to the constitution and international law, which they used to the fullest in leading pro-democracy protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. Sirisak also made clear that demanding monarchy reform was not against the monarchy.
Sirisak received the Ardhanarishvara Award in 2020 for promoting human rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Ardhanarishvara is an androgynous form of two Hindu gods, Shiva and Parvati. In partnership with governmental bodies and nonprofits, the award was first given in 2017 and is for individuals with outstanding profiles in the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights.
Another who received this award was Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a transgender director and former MP of the Future Forward party, who was disqualified by a questionable verdict of the Constitutional Court for alledgedly holding shares in a media-related company. Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, a current Move Forward’s MP and LGBTQ+ person, was among many who criticized the Rainbow Association’s threat of lawsuit as unfair.