Thailand Previously known as Siam, in 1939 the country was officially renamed Prathet Thai, or Thailand—literally, "the land of the free." The change of name closely followed a change in the country's form of government, from the previous absolute monarchy to the modern constitutional monarchy with a representative legislature. With some fifty-two million citizens, Thailand occupies a key position in the rapidly developing Asian economic sphere, and aspires to join Taiwan and Korea as a world-wide economic force. An ethnically and linguistically diverse nation, Thailand began to assume its present shape only within the last thousand years, and many key elements of Thai culture reached their present form in the relatively recent past. The formation of the nation began with the arrival in Thailand of members of a linguistic and cultural group designated by the term "Tai." (Some important members of this group are the Siamese, the Lao, and the Shans of northeastern Burma; altogether the "Tai" comprise about 70 million persons in southeast Asia.) The modern Thai may be a descendant of the incoming Tai, but he may also come from the indigenous Mon and Khmer groups whom the Tai joined, or from much later Chinese and Indian immigrants to Thailand. The modern Thai is not so much a member of a race as a person claiming fealty to the state of Thailand; secondarily, a Thai is identified by his language ("a speaker of Thai"). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Thailand managed to avoid colonization by any European power: the primary foreign influence was 1288
THAILAND ? British, and later influence came from the United States, but the Thai always retained their independence. King Rama VI (reigned 1910-25), a poet and translator of Shakespeare, was reputed to be homosexual. During the 1930s the Thai government hired the libertarian French sexologist Rene Guyon as an advisor, and he may have had a hand in the Thai retention of their sexual freedom. Thailand remains well over ninety percent Buddhist. Thai Buddha figures are frequently effeminate, especially the so- called "Walking Buddha." Thai insistence on personal freedom carries with it a logically necessary corollary: a strong tolerance of eccentricities in other people. One result is that Thailand is one of the few countries on earth where homosexuality is not condemned or treated in any special way. During the 1970s, for example, the Minister of Defense won the national Thai contest for best female dresser. The combination was not perceived as dreadful, but as sanuk, a key Thai concept which roughly translates as "fun" or "pleasure." The toleration of homosexuality is not a modern development. Somerset Maugham remarked long ago that "the Siamese were the only people on earth with an intelligent attitude about such matters." Two recent Thai prime ministers have been reported to be gay. One result of viewing sexual pleasure as a domain with little moral content is that prostitution is not a highly stigmatized activity. In fact, Bangkok is renowned for its thriving "sex industry," which horrifies many Westerners (who are, of course, simultaneously tempted by all the perceived depravity). The male prostitute is not highly stigmatized; it is perfectly possible to make a transition from a year as a Buddhist monk to a year of working as an "off-boy" in Bangkok, without abandoning any of the religion one has absorbed and without losing self-esteem. (The "off-boy" is a young man employed at a gay bar who may be taken home by clients; the term is British.) The suburbs of Bangkok also have "off-boy" establishments which cater almost entirely to Thai customers, and which are more polite as a result. The misbehavior of foreign tourists has caused some of these Thai institutions to bar foreigners, beginning in 1988. Thai culture is inherently nonconfrontational, and the Thai would never think of trying to correct a foreigner's rude, loud, or stingy behavior. The only way out is a generic ban on the offending parties. As one owner explained: "The foreigners were scaring the boys." Bangkok also has discos, saunas, and clubs where gay men can meet on a noncommercial or free-lance basis. While Thai society is generally lacking in homophobia, and also has little antipathy to age-graded relationships, an age of consent for males was first established (with little publicity) in 1987, at 15. Thai society lacks Western concepts of homosexuality as a distinct identity, though this situation may be changing. Traditionally, the Thai conceptualization of male homosexuality is similar to the Mediterranean model: the penetrator is considered a "complete male," and any normal male may find himself in this role; his opposite is the "katoey," a term which embraces transvestism, transsexu- ality, hermaphroditism, and effeminacy. The katoey is expected to remain sexually passive and submissive, and to have no interest in women. While not discriminated against as homosexuals, the katoey suffer from the limited position of women in the male-dominated Thai culture. Not all males who take passive roles are katoey, however, and reciprocity in sex is not unknown. To these traditional concepts is now being added a more flexible concept, imported from the West, of a "gay" (the term itself is borrowed into the Thai language, which has no counterpart). Thai homosexuality is seldom discussed in public, although changes in this area are noticeable in the emergence
? THAILAND of five homoerotic or bisexual publications, led by Mithuna jbi), Mithuna, Jz. (gay), and Neon (gay), a regular radio program broadcast from Bangkok, and the beginnings of gay literary output in the form of novels and short stories. Attitudes on homosexuality show marked differences by class, relating to power positions. While there appears to be no "queerbashing" violence directed against homosexuality, there seems to be a considerable amount of coercion, abuse of authority positions, and rape of males. Peter Jackson comments that "the lessened resistance to having sex with a man means that male rape or sexual attacks on men appear to be significantly more common than in the West." As in other cultures, however, rape of males is a taboo subject and is not reported to authorities. BIBLIOGRAPHY. Eric Allyn and John P. Collins, The Men of Thailand, San Francisco and Bangkok: Bua Luang, 1987; Peter A. Jackson, Male Homosexuality in Thailand, New York: Global Academic Publishers, 1989. Geoff Puterbaugh
Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known as Siam, is a country at the centre of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest. The age of consent in Thailand is 15 (18 for prostitutes).
UNICEF estimates the number of Thai children involved in prostitution to be between 60,000 and 200,000, though the organization says the exact number is difficult to track. One of the rationales sometimes given by those who travel to Thailand for child sex is that "they are helping the children financially better themselves and their families," according to Sowmia Nair, a U.S. Department of Justice agent. In this way, the child sex tourist "is helping the child and the child's family to escape economic hardship."
The Immigration Act states that aliens are to be excluded if they have been imprisoned "by the judgement of the Court of foreign country, except when the penalty is for petty offense or negligence or is provided for as an exception in the Ministerial Regulations"; or if they are aliens "Having behavior which would indicated possible danger to the public or likelihood of being a nuisance or constituting any violence to the peace or safety of the public or to the security of the public or to the security of the nation, or being under warrant of arrest by competent officials of foreign governments" or if there is "Reason to believe that entrance into the Kingdom was for the purpose of being involved in prostitution, the trading of woman of children, drug smuggling, or other types of smuggling which are contrary to the public morality." According to Chris Smith:
|“||I actually got the idea of International Megan's Law in a conversation with a Trafficking in Person's delegation from Thailand during a meeting in my office in 2007. I asked what Thai officials would do if we were to notify them of travel by a convicted pedophile. Each of the dozen officials said they would bar entry into their nation of such a predator.||”|