Thailand’s Rainbow Capitalism is all sizzle and no steak when it comes to supporting LGBTQ rights

Pride month may be over but many challenges remain for the LGBTQ+ community in Thailand. Among the biggest challenges are sorting allies from opportunists, especially corporations eager to capitalize on the growing LGBTQ+ market without actually taking meaningful steps to support the community.

This opportunism is known as rainbow capitalism or pink capitalism. 

The LGBTQ+ market was worth 1.7 trillion baht as far back as 2016 and is undeniably one of the biggest Thai consumer markets out there. While campaigns like the 2018 Tourist Authority of Thailand’s ‘Open To The New Shades’ ploy brings tourism dollars into the country, legislation has fallen ironically behind the progressive facade the TAT put in place.

While Thailand is the first country within the region to enact a Civil Partnership Bill, something the TAT can promote to the tune of billions of tourist dollars, activists say it is not enough in the long run. Ta Kasitipradit, a graphic designer and activist on LGBTQ+ issues at Thaipface is one of those critics who say that corporations and the governments can do more.

“A corporation’s solidarity to the LGBTQ+ community does not and should not lie in the flags put up every Pride Month but rather their receipts, their financial spendings and contributions towards LGBTQ+ causes, their vote in support of bills concerning LGBTQ+ rights — pride is not superficial”.

Critics like Ta understand that while Thailand and Thai corporations like to position itself as a gay friendly paradise, the truth is that the LGBTQ community still faces discrimination when it comes to legislation.

“The current [civil partnership bill] doesn’t grant us the same rights as the straight couples, which is different from the other bill proposed by the Move Forward Party,” said Anant Utchin, a Thai non-binary and lecturer on queer literature at Thammasat University’s faculty of liberal arts in a previous interview with Thai Enquirer.

Unions is not the same as marriage rights as marriages are tied by law with protection, rights, and support from the state. Unions are just state recognition without legal support, according to the critics.

The recognition of same-sex unions, therefore, hardly contributes to any progress made in protecting and supporting members of the LGBTQ community in Thailand.

“Corporations, if they are serious about supporting our community, should stop putting up flags and start putting in money to help us continue our campaigns for recognition,” said Warawut Prajongsuk, a LGBTQ lawyer and activist.

“It is a bit sick that they keep making out Thailand to be some sort of gay paradise but when it comes to support for activists or pressuring legislature, they fall silent.”

By Kamori Osthananda, Pear Maneechote, and Cod Satrusayang.

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