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THAILAND - Dec 29, 2002

The Bangkok Post reported today that metropolitan police, lead by Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Maleenond, raided Bangkok's most famous gay men's club on Friday night. Acting on a "tip" that sex services were being offered, police and media cameras charged into Babylon, a luxury complex for adult men. Inside they discovered a fabulous pool and gym, elegant restaurant, and cruising areas.

Babylon is one of a number of private gay clubs in Bangkok that cater to gay men who prefer to meet on a social basis, rather than commercial sex bars which feature prostitutes as their main focus. The club is famously sophisticated, often featuring performances by renowned jazz singers moonlighting from equally famous 5-star hotels.All 207 patrons, both Thai citizens and visitors from around the world, were required to provide samples of piss for the police. According to The Post, 20 of these showed "possible" signs of undisclosed types of drugs. The facility was charged with operating a hotel (next door to the sauna) without a license.

In the last couple of weeks a number of gay venues which do not allow prostitution have been targets of raids and inexplicable drug testing, including a small karaoke lounge which caters to chubby gays.

Thus 2002 ends on a sour note, with public officials still apparently confused and anxious about Thailand's vibrant gay subculture. Never-the-less, some remarkable milestones were acheived this year: the official announcement by Thai health authorities that homosexuals are not mentally ill and that gay relationships can be healthy; Bangkok's 4th annual gay parade (attended by 300,000 people according to the government's estimate); a 3rd gay film festival; and numerous examples of gay-themed subjects being tackled in Thai arts and culture.

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