Thailand’s pioneering first trans MP ousted from parliament ‘because she supports democracy’

Vic Parsons
·2-min read

Thailand lost its pioneering first-ever trans MP Wednesday (October 28) after the constitutional court revoked her seat.

Tanwarin Sukkhapisit won a seat last year with the Future Forward Party, which dissolved in February this year; increasing discontent and fuelling pro-democracy activists to demand the government step down. Three trans MPs remain in their seats in Thailand’s parliament.

Critics say that Sukkhapisit was dismissed because of her support for the country’s pro-democracy movement, according to France 24.

After the Future Forward Party dissolved, Sukkhapisit – like others from the party – joined another party, the Move Forward Party. But a judge ruled Wednesday that the filmmaker, actor and LGBT+ activist had breached electoral law because she’s the “stockholder of a media company” and must leave her parliamentary seat.

“I’m not surprised – I expected this to happen,” Sukkhapisit told AFP, adding she did not think the decision was related to her gender identity.

“I will continue my work fighting for better outcomes for the LGBT+ community.”

Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party, said: “Even if we lose an MP today I think we have a national icon when it comes to freedom and gender equality.”

Many in the country claim that the government is using electoral law to oust pro-democracy politicians like Sukkhapisit from parliament, like political scientist Titipol Phakdeewanich, who said: “They are trying to use a legal mechanism against whoever they assume supports the (pro-democracy) movement.”

Trans in Thailand.

In July, Thailand moved to become the first southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex unions and allow queer couples to adopt – though it will not introduce full marriage equality.

Same-sex couples could have their love recognised under a new bill approved by the Thai government on July 8.

If it is passed by parliament, the bill would make Thailand the second Asian nation to recognise same-sex unions, after Taiwan in the east.

Thailand, a mostly-Buddhist country, has cultivated an image of openness and is often promoted as a queer-friendly tourism hotspot.

Same-sex activity is legal, however trans people have no legal recognition.

A 2019 UN Development Programme study found that 69 per cent of cis straight Thais are accepting of LGBT+ people, however more than half of queer respondents reported verbal harassment, 16 per cent reported sexual assault, and 42 per cent said they have pretended to be straight be accepted at school, work or at home.

Almost half said they had contemplated suicide.