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THAILAND - Feb 7, 2009

It's been an uphill climb for activists preparing for Chiang Mai's LGBT Pride celebration scheduled for Feb 21. All went well last year when Mplus+, a Thai NGO working in M2M HIV/AIDS prevention, and Human Rights Education Institute of Myanmar, co-hosted Northern Thailand's first ever international LGBT conference. ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) came to town with a rallying cry to LGBT throughout Asia to come and speak out.

For four days in January, 2008, Chiang Mai had a very LGBT vibe as a plethora of pan-Asian LGBT pioneers conferred, including Thai lesbians, Mongolian gays from Ultan Bator, a statuesque transgender from Armenia, the first openly lesbian politician from Japan, a whole slew of multi-gendered activists from Indonesia, and a powerful woman’s group from the Philipines. 150 participants in all gathered for the landmark event.

A parade followed, marching for hours past the famous Night Bazaar and through the streets of Chiang Mai.

Planning for the 2009 event witnessed struggles with conservative voices complaining about scantily clad marchers, lewd behavior, gay monks and threats to Thai culture. For a while it looked like the event was going to be cancelled. The LGBT community lept into power drive, calling on all its resources to educate and organize.

Mplus+ director, Pongsathorn Chanluean, spoke for inclusiveness and diversity:

"For a culture to bear the passing of time, it needs to evolve alongside the people in that culture. It can't be frozen like a dead entity. Should it stand still and fail to enrich itself with new values, decline would immediately set in. All Chiang Mai citizens are entitled to dignity and the right to contribute to culture according to how they live their life."

"It is time to expand Chiang Mai culture to include all subgroups of people with different ways of life who are ready to share with and learn from each other. A society and culture of diversity is more adept at coping with varying social issues. To resist change and hang on to outdated images of culture will only cause conflicts and alienation, both mentally and physically."

A groundswell of support finally broke the deadlock, with the focus on human rights winning the day.

The parade is scheduled for 5pm on Sunday, February 21 with GLBT from Pattaya, Bangkok and Phuket joining the route past Chiang Mai's Night Bazaar and Chan Klan Rd to Tawan Trendy Palace at the corner of Si Donchai Rd. Those wishing to march should assemble at Buddha Satthan, at the corner of Chan Klan Rd and Tapae at 4pm.

There will be parties and special events following the parade.

For further information please see ChiangMaiGayPride.com

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