all images are copyright © 2001 by Utopia, Founding Sponsors of the festival.
(The Nation newspaper, Nov 5, 2001)
Many people passing by the southeast corner of Lumpini Park today couldn't help being drawn to the liveliness inside. Behind a gate festooned with colorful balloons, a busy crowd jammed an area lined with booths.
"I heard that there'd be a parade, but I didn't know what it was about," said Rat Noi-on, 42, a housewife who often visits the park. It didn't take her long to find out.
"Pink in the Park" was organized by the Pride Coalition as a part of the third annual Bangkok Gay Festival. There were 30 booths representing gay, women's and human-rights groups as well as gay-related businesses. The events included performances by gay artists, volleyball and swimming competitions, raffles, games and a celebrity panel discussion on "How to live a gay life in Thailand".
The crowd was diverse. Men in drag were far outnumbered by those in casual dress, some strolling around holding hands. "They look just like ordinary men," Rat said.
The participants were not only Thai. Many were visitors from Western and other Asian countries. Jun, a 27-year-old tourist from Korea, said: "We don't have this kind of thing in our country. Korean society is strict and not open to gays. I hope we will have these events too in the future."
The event kicked off with a mini-parade around the park in the early afternoon. Many of the marchers were clad in colorful Thai costumes.
"From now on, we won't be gay only for a day a year," proclaimed Natee Teerarojjanapongs, a member of the organizing committee and well-known Aids activist, in his opening speech. Natee hopes that the event - attended by thousands - will enliven the gay-rights movement in Thailand.
A 22-year-old female college graduate who was working at the event said, " I have a lot of katoey friends, and they are fun to be with . . . I think our society has come to embrace gay people a lot more." However, although she supports gay rights, she thinks there should be at least one limit. "I would be so upset if I found out that my boyfriend was gay."
Later in the evening, a crowd accumulated along Silom Road to enjoy the colorful Bangkok Gay Festival parade. The parade presented different aspects of Thai culture in a gay context. To balance the partial nudity seen in previous parades an emphasis was put on Thai attire, including Lanna, Isaan, Angkor and Apsara-style costumes. Five floats and 3,000 marchers and dancers wound their way around Silom and Suriwong roads, before a crowd of 20,000 onlookers.
Australia + Bhutan + Cambodia + China (including Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet) + East Timor + India + Indonesia + Japan
Laos + Malaysia + Mongolia + Myanmar / Burma + Nepal + Philippines + Singapore
South Korea + Sri Lanka + Taiwan + Thailand + Vietnam