Bangkok celebrates first Pride parade in 16 years

Bangkok (AFP) – Thailand's capital saw an explosion of glamour, gilt, and glitter Sunday as the country's LGBTQ community celebrated their first Pride parade in almost 16 years -- but attendees warned true equality was still distant.

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Bangkok's "Naruemit Pride 2022" -- Naruemit means "creation" in Thai -- was organised by a coalition of non-governmental groups with the city's newly ratified governor Chadchart Sittiput also throwing his weight behind it.

Allies and people of all genders, including drag artists, sex workers, feminists and even a few furries -- people who are interested in or dress up as animal characters with human personalities -- bounded down one of the megalopolis's main throughways for the first official parade since 2006.

"I feel so happy," said grinning drag queen Johnnie Phurikorn, who had paired his red lipstick with an exuberant scarlet ruffled dress for his first Pride.

Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittiput (R) interacts with members of the LGBTQIA+ community as they take part in the Pride March in Bangkok on June 5, 2022
Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittiput (R) interacts with members of the LGBTQIA+ community as they take part in the Pride March in Bangkok on June 5, 2022 Lillian SUWANRUMPHA AFP

"I feel glad and thankful to have this moment," the 31-year-old said, but added that his country needed to do more to support LGBTQ individuals.

While the Southeast Asian nation has a highly visible LGBTQ community, many still face major hurdles and discrimination in the conservative Buddhist-majority kingdom.

"I don't want people to think we are different," said Maysa Petkam, a competitor in transgender beauty pageant Miss Tiffany Universe.

"We don't want more rights than other genders, we only want basic rights," she said, noting how the community still faced daily discrimination.

"I wish same-sex marriage law passes so that there will be laws that protect and decrease gender inequality," she added, steadying her vertiginous crown as she emphasised her point.

A right to love

For engaged couple Anticha Sangchai and Vorawan Ramwan, the question of marriage equality was particularly pertinent.

A same sex couple poses in wedding dresses during the Pride March in Bangkok on June 5, 2022
A same sex couple poses in wedding dresses during the Pride March in Bangkok on June 5, 2022 Lillian SUWANRUMPHA AFP

The pair in diaphanous white gowns caught the crowd's attention -- and later social media -- with their wedding ceremony in the midst of the parade.

"My beloved friends walk together and gave us a special moment in our life," Anticha told AFP, calling the experience among the crowds an "honour".

Thailand's parliament has yet to legalise same-sex marriage, with the Thai cabinet in March pushing back a proposal recognising the unions equally.

"Everyone has the right of raising a family, love and marriage with anyone they love," Anticha said.

"Why we can't do that as a human being?"

As the pair headed off with the end of the official parade, the party was not quite over.

People celebrate under a giant rainbow flag during the Pride March in Bangkok on June 5, 2022
People celebrate under a giant rainbow flag during the Pride March in Bangkok on June 5, 2022 Lillian SUWANRUMPHA AFP

A large group congregated under one of the city's metro stations -- partially blocking a major road -- and gave an impromptu drag show to songs by Madonna, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

It looked set to continue into the night as the crowd, many hanging over railings and crammed into street corners, screamed each performance as they chanted the lyrics of Perry's "I kissed a girl and I liked it".