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Thailand OKs Gay, Transsexual Soldiers

Posted: August 10, 2005 1:00 pm ET

(Bangkok) Thailand on Wednesday removed restrictions on gays and transsexuals serving in the military.

Thailand has a draft but gays and transsexuals have been barred from serving under the "mental disorder" exemption.

All Thai men at the age of 20 are required by law to register to serve. Recruits are selected through a lottery system, but each year thousands of LGBT draftees are rejected.

Wednesday the military announced that it was removing homosexuality and transgenderism from its list of mental disorders following years of
complaints from the LGBT community that the ban was discriminatory.

The military said that the change was part of a program to keep up with a changing society.

"The existing conscription law has been promulgated since 1954, when there were few homosexuals and transvestites, but society is changing very fast, so the army is in the process of amending the law and omitting those words from the certificate," said Lt. Gen. Arthorn Lohitkul, director general of the Army Reserve Command.

The campaign to amend the requirements for conscription was launched by LGBT civil activist Natee Theerarojnaphong.

"No employer wants to hire anyone with a record of mental disorder to work in his company," Natee said, adding that people with mental disorders are also unable to make certain legal agreements.

A celebrity Thai-style kickboxer who underwent surgery to become a woman, Parinya Charoenphol, complained on local television after being exempt from the military.

"The words 'mental disorder' marked on the certificate seriously affects our lives," said Parinya. Thailand is a Buddhist country where
homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals are largely tolerated. Gay and transvestite actors play key roles in Thai movies and television soap operas.

The change was hailed in the US by gays fighting for inclusion in the military."Neither sexual orientation nor gender identity has any impact on
a service member's ability to get the job done," Steve Ralls, a spokesperson for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network told

"The United States armed forces should follow the Thai military's example and place qualification above prejudice. Our armed forces should end to the military's unfair discrimination against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender military personnel."

A bill is pending in Congress to repeal the military's ban and allow lesbian and gay Americans the opportunity to serve openly.

A study done by the Government Accountability Office shows that more than 10,000 service members have been discharged over the last 10 years under "don't ask, don't tell".

© 2005




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