The 3rd International Lesbian and Gay Association-Asia Regional Conference was held in Chiangmai, Thailand from 24th to 27th January 2008. Being a member of ILGA, a few of us from Sayoni Singapore travelled to participate and vote in the event.
At first, we were caught off guard by the sheer diversity of people who attended. The conference brought together about 160 delegates from a whole range of Asian countries, to name a few, China, HongKong, Macau, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Mongolia, Burma, Philippines, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kyrgystan, Armenia, etc etc.
The difficulty of initial communication and fruitful networking aside, seminar sessions were many and diverse in their content and quality. Of particular importance was the launching of the Yogyakarta Principles by Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn.
Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand) is UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic People�s Republic of Korea and professor of Law at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. He co-chaired the experts� meeting which drafted The Yogyakarta Principles, a set of principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Principles affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply.
Sayoni was able to help out by facilitating the women’s caucus on the first day and learned a lot from the women sharing about their views on various issues pertaining to the personal, community and the world at large. Subsequent days were followed by sessions on transgender issues, laws, rights, HIV, country focus issues, women issues, etc.
A gay pride parade was also held on the third day (Saturday) of the conference that marched from the Puttastan Buddhist Centre to the Night Bazaar / Pantip Plaza. The first in Chiangmai, it was greeted with curiosity from the locals, delight by tourists and participation by some who wanted to show their support.
Sayoni would like to thank Myo, Mira, Chiang Mai based LGBT groups, The Committee on Lesbigay Rights in Burma (CLRB) and M-Plus for organizing the conference on the ground.