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Thailand elects first transgender MP Tanwarin Sukkhapisit

Sofia Lotto Persio March 25, 2019
Future Forward Partys transgender candidate film director Thanwarin Sukhaphisit thanked supporters.

Future Forward Partys transgender candidate film director Thanwarin Sukhaphisit. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

Filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit has become the first transgender MP to be elected in Thailand, which held a vote for the first time since the 2014 military coup on Sunday (March 24).

Tanwarin ran as a candidate with the Future Forward Party, a political force founded a year ago which, according to unofficial results quoted in the Bangkok Post, is projected to become the third-largest party in the country.

Tanwarin, who identifies as bisexual and transgender, thanked supporters in a Facebook post: “Thank you for the hope of everyone who believes that we still want a new, good future together. Thank you from this little bisexual heart.”

First transgender MP Tanwarin Sukkhapisit fights for same-sex marriage

Ahead of the vote, Tanwarin told Voice of America she wanted to run to represent the country’s LGBT+ community.

The filmmaker had been embroiled in a five-year legal battle to lift a ban on her 2010 film Insects in the Backyard, which had been censored over moral indecency, after agreeing to cut a nude scene. It was that experience that motivated her entry in politics.

She said: “I want to be a person who represents the minority people in Thailand because for me—LGBT people—we have not the right to marry in a same-sex marriage. Legally, by law, we cannot adopt children.”

Future Forward Partys transgender candidate film director Thanwarin Sukhaphisit speaks during the party's final major campaign rally in Bangkok on March 22, 2019,
Future Forward Partys transgender candidate film director Thanwarin Sukhaphisit speaks during the party’s final major campaign rally in Bangkok on March 22, 2019, ahead of the March 24 general election. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

In a separate interview with the Bangkok Post, Tanwarin said she would fight to legalise same-sex marriage in Thailand.

Referring to the section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which says that marriage can only be stipulated between a man and a woman, the candidate said: “We hope to amend it to say any two persons can be married. If this can be fixed, it would remove a barrier and open the doors to many other things.”

LGBT+ candidates in Thailand’s election

Tanwarin was not the only LGBT+ candidate running in Thailand’s election.

Pauline Ngarmpring, who transitioned at the age of 49, became the first transgender woman running to be prime minister.

She ran with the Machachon Party, whose platform focused on human rights and equality and counted up to 20 LGBT+ candidates among its ranks, as reported by Voice of America.

The Thai Prime Minister is elected by the two houses of parliament, wherein the 500 seats in the lower house are elected by the people, while the 250 seats in the upper house are appointed by the military.

Ngarmpring said she realised her candidacy was mostly symbolic, but she was hoping to pave the way for other LGBT+ people to run in the future.

“I know having my candidacy is a symbolic gesture. I know I will not be prime minister now,” said Ngarmpring. “But we hope we will get some seats and represent LGBT people in the country. And perhaps next time, even a transgender woman will have a chance.”

 

More: Asia, future forward party, Pauline Ngarmpring, Politics, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Thailand, Thailand

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