Photo by Bangkok Pride

Bangkok’s bid to host World Pride the next step on the road to change

On Monday (29 May), a mural was unveiled at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in an event where the organizers of Bangkok Pride announced that they will be bidding to host World Pride in 2028 as the next step on the road to equality for the Thai LGBTQ community.

The "Road to Equality" mural on the BACC building (Photo by Bangkok Pride)

The “Road to Equality” mural, now on the façade of the BACC building, was unveiled ahead of Sunday’s Pride Parade in an event joined by activists, politicians, and business sector representatives, during which participants announced their intention to support the bid for Bangkok to host the 2028 World Pride.

The mural was designed by artist Sorathorn Wangnitsuk, who won first place in Naruemit Pride’s Road to Bangkok World Pride 2028 campaign. 

InterPride, an international network of LGBTQ organizations responsible for granting the license to host World Pride, describe it as “an event that promotes visibility and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) issues on an international level.” A World Pride event includes parades, performances, and other activities, including a human rights forum, and has drawn a massive number of participants to each year’s host city.

For gender equality activist Chumaporn “Waddao” Taengkliang, founder of Naruemit Pride, the organizer of Bangkok Pride, bidding to host World Pride is the next step in the road to change.

Chumaporn said that World Pride events aim to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues on a very public level, noting that InterPride only allows community-based organizations to place bids and not the government or the business sector. She noted that many cities, like Kaohsiung in Taiwan, and Sydney, won their bids after they passed legislation granting rights to LGBTQ people, such as amending marriage laws to allow marriage registration for any gender.

Taiwan won the bid to host World Pride 2025 after it became the first nation in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019, but withdrew after a controversy involving a request from InterPride for the name of the even to be changed from “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” to “WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025.”

Chumaporn Taengkliang

Chumaporn said that bidding to host World Pride would pressure governments to pass LGBTQ rights legislation, as it would be a disgrace to host such a massive event while the local LGBTQ community has no rights. To quality, the bidding city would also be checked to make sure it is LGBTQ-friendly and that the country is sufficiently progressive.

While it might be fun to have people come to Bangkok from all over the world to join the event and while it might be exciting to see businesses becoming more aware, Chumaporn’s goal as an activist is to pass legislation for LGBTQ rights. The important thing, she said, is not so much to show InterPride how progressive Thailand is but to introduce Thai people to World Pride and to make government agencies and businesses truly aware of LGBTQ issues, as opposed to rainbow-washing their policies.

For her, here lies another way for Naruemit Pride to do their work as LGBTQ rights advocates, after having tried UN mechanisms, proposing policies to politicians, and public demonstrations.

“I myself dream of seeing a World Pride that is worthy, meaning that it’s not just grand. Worthy means that it’s an event that acceptsand embraces everyone, and that it opens up a space not just for Thai people,” she said.

World Pride took place in Sydney this year. In 2025, it will be going to Washington DC, and then to Amsterdam in 2026.

Pita Limjaroenrat (left) and Chadchart Sittipunt (right) at Monday's event.

Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt and Deputy Governor Sanon Wangsrangboon joined Monday’s event. Chadchart said that this Sunday’s Bangkok Pride event would show that the city is ready to embrace all kinds of diversity, beginning with gender diversity, and that the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) is ready to work with other partners bidding to host World Pride. 

Pita Limjaroenrat, the Move Forward Party’s candidate for Prime Minister, also joined the event. He said that his government will be joining the BMA to support the World Pride bid, noting that bringing the event to Bangkok is not only about boosting the economy and tourism but also raising awareness in society about equality.

Pita noted that marriage equality is mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the parties joining the government coalition, and that marriage equality and gender recognition are among the 45 pieces of legislation the Move Forward Party plans to propose as soon as parliament opens.

“All these are things we have to push for before we host World Pride or any other event. This is to show the people that accepting diversity is this country’s strength,” Pita said.

“It is Thai society’s strong belief that people are equal, whether it is in gender, religion, or physical condition. If we succeed in these issues, hosting World Pride in Bangkok will become a small matter.”

On the road to equality

Pita and Chadchart took photos with activists and representatives of the business sectors and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security after the mural was unveiled.

In 15 months, the Naruemit Pride team will submit their proposal to InterPride. Meanwhile, the Marriage Equality bill proposed by MPs from the Move Forward Party, which passed its first reading in June 2022, was not been brought back to parliament for its second and third readings in time before parliament was dissolved.

But Chumaporn and her fellow activists have a plan. It is not the job of activists to pass the law, she said, but it is their job to pressure the new government into completing the tasks left unfinished by the last government. She noted that the new cabinet can decide to bring back any bill still left before parliament, and because every democratic party proposed LGBTQ rights policies during the election campaign, not passing the Marriage Equality bill would be rainbow-washing.

The activists are also preparing to submit a petition for amendments to the marriage and family sections in the Civil and Commercial Code. Like the Move Forward Party’s bill, it proposes to amend the Civil and Commercial Code to allow marriage registration regardless of gender and raise the age at which a person can get married from 17 to 18. But it goes beyond that and proposes to amend the language used in the Civil and Commercial Code to be gender neutral so that the same rights, duties, and legal recognition are granted to persons of every gender and sexuality.

The petition now has over 300,000 signatures, far exceeding the 10,000 required for a law to be proposed to parliament by the public. Within the first 24 hours of its launch, it gained over 100,000 signatures, something Chumaporn said she was surprised by.

“If the situation in parliament is sluggish and not supportive, there is no need to wait,” Chumaporn said.

The activist group Feminist Liberation Front Thailand has been looking for volunteers to prepare the documents for submission. Chumaporn said she was baffled by the number of people who signed up, many of whom came because they are part of the LGBTQ community and wanted to contribute to proposing the law.

“Many people said they just wanted there to be marriage equality. Many people told us that, in their lives as LGBT people, they want this law, so they want to do some small thing so that the law can be passed,” she said.

When asked where she is going after the marriage equality campaign, Chumaporn said she feels it is time for her to step back and support activists campaigning for a gender recognition law. She also said she wanted not only to amend the Gender Equality Act but also to establish a human rights court to deal with discrimination or rights issues, having learned from taking these cases to the criminal or civil courts that the Thai justice system has no understanding of human rights and even with legislation, those working in the system are likely not going to get it.

She also said she wants to campaign for constitutional amendments to make the language used in Thai laws gender neutral, and to repeal any sections in the Constitution restricting bodily autonomy.

The movement has come a long way in the past five years, Chumaporn said. Although the same issues are being discussed and the same legislation proposed, society has become more open. LGBTQ issues have become popular along with other equality issues, she said, and there is hope in the country now that people are not only following the situation but know themselves and what they want.

“What we’ve come the furthest in is that marriage equality is not ours anymore,” she said. “It won’t die even without us. We are not the only ones who own it.”

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