Gay parade: activists see red over protest
Mon, Feb 23, 2009
Daily Xpress/Asia News Network

A group of 150 People Living With HIV/Aids and Youth Network activists from 50 countries have condemned red-shirt protesters for stopping Saturday's Gay Pride Parade in Chiang Mai, saying the red-shirts wanted to appear on TV.

"We accept the freedom of political expression but we cannot accept their [red-shirts] barbarian invasion," said Niwat Suwanpattana, a member of the Northern Thai NGO Coa-lition on Aids Commission, at a press conference at Chiang Mai's Wind Place Hotel.

The move came after a group of 30 red-shirt protesters went to Tawan Trendy Mall, where a stage had been erected to welcome the Gay Pride Parade. The parade was scheduled to head from the Buddhasathan towards the Night Bazaar and to the mall.

The protesters launched verbal attacks through megaphones, saying the event tarnished the city's reputation. They also reacted angrily to a remark by the organisers that the "Rak Chiang Mai 51" group was acting like thugs.

The group vowed not to allow the event to take place in public. They confronted the organisers and dismantled the stage set up to welcome participants of the parade.

Increasing understanding

"We do not understand why the red-shirt group has to drag politics into our activities," said Niwat.

Gay Pride is a form of social expression by sexual minorities, who are entitled to the right to freely express their identity and sexuality.

The idea behind the parade was to increase public understanding about sexual diversity and equality as well as promote awareness of HIV/Aids issues.

Thai Youth Network coordinator Kullanant Padermwan-napong said the red-shirt movement has actually discouraged teenagers who want to work for society.

The youth group wants the protesters to apologise for their "uncivilised" action towards teenagers and other people who organised the event.

The group announced that February 21 will be observed each year as a "Stop Violence Against Diverse Sex Lives Day". -Daily Xpress/ Asia New Network

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