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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

Panan's advocacy for LGBTIQ+ Rights in the Digital Age

Do you remember that iconic moment when someone held up a sign that boldly declared, "I want to be the first transgender prime minister"? If you can still picture that image in your mind, then you're likely familiar with Panan, a prominent LGBTIQ+ activist who became an overnight sensation thanks to that powerful message. 🏳️‍🌈✨

But as the saying goes, "with great power comes great responsibility." The massive attention garnered by Panan's courageous actions transformed her into a remarkable activist, one who had to confront a multitude of societal challenges that would test the resilience of even the strongest individuals. 💪🌎

#YouthSpeakDemocracy 🤝is a collaboration between the Young Pride Club and the Manushya Foundation. Today, we had an opportunity to sit down with Panan for an hour, delving into her journey as an activist and the things she encountered along the way, with 5 questions revealing her unique path in the world of activism. 🗣️🌟👏

"Hello, I'm Panan, and my pronouns are Trans She/Her. Currently, I work with the Young Pride Club, and my primary interests lie in gender and psychological research.

Q: What was the initial driving force that made you become a political activist?

“I've been actively engaged with the civil society networks for an extended period, advocating for several human rights issues including the rights of LGBTQ+. When it comes to fundamental rights and needs, I couldn't deny how significant it is, especially given that Thailand still lacks legal provisions supporting the rights and freedom of the LGBTQ+ community."

Q: Besides your on-ground movements, why did you decide to get involved online?

“Politics outside the parliament is vital. It highlights issues that people are afraid to speak about, issues that are swept under the rug. It brings us together, makes our demands resonate, and allows the public and politicians joining our cause to understand the issues together. It extends from the streets to social media, which serves as a gathering place for forward thinkers, allowing us to rapidly share pivotal moments in our movements. However, it requires an engaging and concise communication style. Once it goes viral, the issue will become more widespread.”

Q: Everyone on social media needs a starting point for people to recognize them. How did people get to know 'Panan' on social media?

“It was when I held a sign that read, "I want to be the first transgender prime minister." Many might have thought I was seeking attention, but to put it plainly, we believed that gender and politics are intertwined. They cannot be separated.

There was a male journalist who once said, "LGBTQ+ people are demanding too much. Why don't they start with fundamental issues like democracy first and then address your concerns?" His words made it seem like the activism for the LGBTQ+ community had never crossed his mind. That's why I was so frustrated. It led to the sign, "I want to be the first transgender prime minister," which later became viral. I consider it a positive development as it made society more open, recognizing it's not just about transgender individuals. It could be a sex worker or any marginalized group, and they can become leaders in their own right.”

Q: During the social media-driven political movements, did you face any disruptions from the Thai government?

“Yes. There was the public security officer taking photos, digging through my history, and finding out my name through my social media and database. They know my name, address, and all my personal information. When there are lawsuits against activists, it becomes easier for them because they have all the information. It's disturbing how they use our private information to bring cases against us and constantly monitor our actions. It made us fearful. If you confront them, threats often follow.”

Q: After experiencing all of this, have you ever considered continuing or quitting for safety reasons?

“My principles remain unwavering, and I continue to uphold them. I choose not to take on prominent roles in movements but rather support fellow activists because, in reality, when Panan's situation went viral, I had the opportunity to establish a reputation and become a recognized activist like many others, but I opted not to. My family has no one involved in addressing political issues, and the government's interference left me feeling insecure and anxious. Therefore, I believed it was best for me to step back. It's worth noting that the level of fear varies from person to person. I know that I am relatively sensitive, so I tend to avoid on-ground activities. However, even online activism poses its challenges. I may encounter IO (information operations), face reports, or have my images captured and reported to the authorities. It's a random and unpredictable risk.”

However, I'm still active, doing what I used to, all while keeping my recognizing the utmost importance of safeguarding my own safety and security.”

Freedom on the Net, a study conducted by Freedom House in collaboration with the #ManushyaFoundation has underscored the substantial limitations on internet freedom in Thailand. The Thai government has employed a multitude of tactics to stifle diverse viewpoints on social media, particularly in response to the pro-democracy protests that began in July 2020. This has led to many activists confronting lengthy and severe legal consequences that go beyond what is justifiable.

Q: Lastly, how do you envision the future of democracy in Thailand?

“It might go against the tide of others, but I aspire to see politics in the parliament to progress like outside of it. Unfortunately, this aspiration appears quite unlikely, given the lack of consensus among those in power, resulting in political turmoil. As a consequence, we have to be able to argue freely for democracy to advance. Although civil society is strong, there's the use of force. If our fights are met with resistance, our efforts will eventually regress because we'll start feeling unsafe and may face accusations like, "You participated in protests, you caused disruption.” Achieving our goals will be a lengthy process, perhaps even longer than the time it takes for a political party like Move Forward to make substantial gains in an election."

🌟🌈 Young Pride Club and Manushya Foundation proudly stand in solidarity with youth activists advocating for democracy, human rights, equality, and justice. Join us for the latest updates articles as part of the #YouthPowerDemocracy project by #YoungPrideClub and @ManushyaFoundation. 📰🤝🗳️

#WeAreManushyan ♾️ Equal Human Beings

Read the original article from #YoungPrideClub

🔥 While you’re here, discover our pivotal work on democracy and digital rights, shaping our safer online arena in Southeast Asia ⤵️


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