AFP: Thai group launches bid to stop Singapore from snatching its pink dollars

Friday, July 30, 2004

Thai group launches bid to stop Singapore from snatching its pink dollars

Bangkok– Thailand's gay community has launched a political lobby group to try and stop the kingdom's title as Asia's pink tourism capital being snatched by Singapore. Thailand boasts Asia's largest annual Mardi-Gras festival, as well as the most vibrant and open gay club scene and annual gay beauty pageant.

However, wedged between conservative Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore has been forging a reputation as the new Asian hot spot for gay holiday-makers. The island state has experienced a boom in gay clubs following a change in attitude towards the pink dollar in the late 1990s.

Ms Munthana Adisayathepkul, the head of Thailand's leading lesbian group and a key member of the Homosexual Political Group of Thailand (HPGT), said Singapore had become a dangerous competitor to Thailand. "Singapore is trying to make itself the centre of gays and lesbians in Asia … and we are trying to get the government to support us fight this shift," she said.
Prominent Thai gay activist, Mr Natee Teerarojjanapongs – the first openly gay Thai to run for a senate seat – said government support would be crucial if Thailand is to remain as Asia's key holiday destination for homosexuals.

"If we want to be a gay paradise, the government has to support gay groups as it will draw a lot of tourists and income to the country," he said. Mr Natee also said it is the kingdom's fundamental atmosphere of tolerance, not just mega-events, which still sets it apart from other Asian destinations. "Even though they (Singapore) have strong laws they want to trade on the success that comes with staging a famous gay parade," he said.

The bars and cafes in Bangkok's bustling and neon-lit gay entertainment area are packed with tourists enjoying the city's unbridled gay night life, but operators say they are far from complacent."It is possible that Singapore will be the next gay capital as it is more open to gays," said Mr Panuwat Jaykong, the manager of Telephone, one of Bangkok's best known bars.
"The number of Singaporean and Hong Kong visitors has fallen by 20 to 30 per cent over the past few months after the Thai government said it did not support gays' activities," he said.

A spokesman for Asia's largest and oldest gay holiday firm, Utopia Tours, also said it was the lack of government support rather than the allure of Singapore that is the main threat to the industry. But the head of Bangkok's gay festival, Mr Pakorn Pimton, rejected the need for official support. "They do not have to support us – just don't ban us," he said. "Singapore as Asia's gay capital? Forget it. Their parade and other activities are still far behind Thailand," he said.

Taipei Times: Singapore: Socially conservative Singapore bans popular gay-oriented Taiwanese film (Jul 23)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Singapore's stringent movie screening body rejected Taiwan's highest-grossing film this year because it 'creates the illusion of a homosexual utopia'

Taipei Times
Friday, July 23, 2004

Sex and the City may be suitable for audiences in Singapore, but censors have drawn the line at Taiwan's highest-grossing film this year, banning the teenage romantic comedy because of its gay theme.

Formula 17, which has grossed double the US$100,000 it cost to make, was banned, because it encouraged homosexuality, Singapore's Films Appeals Committee said yesterday.

It said panel members thought the film "creates an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passersby, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected."

"It conveys the message that homosexuality is normal, and a natural progression of society," the panel said.

Singapore has loosened some of its stuffy social controls in recent years, partially relaxing a ban on chewing gum in January, allowing some bars to stay open for 24 hours and ending a ban on the US sitcom Sex and the City last week. But many tough rules remain. Playboy magazine is still banned, while oral sex remains technically illegal under a law that says "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals" can be fined and jailed up to 10 years, or even for life.

The government said in January it plans to review its sex laws, and oral sex would most probably be decriminalized -- but only between men and women. The panel said it took into account the findings of a recent survey that more than 70 percent of Singaporeans are not receptive to homosexual lifestyles.

Formula 17, directed by a 23-year-old, has been a sensation in Taiwan, its box-office earnings making it the most successful homegrown film this year, media reports said.

TNP: Homosexuality against biblical teachings (Jul 14)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Homosexuality against biblical teachings

LOVE the sinner but not the sin - this seems to be the official stand of the Christian community on homosexuality.
14 July 2004

LOVE the sinner but not the sin - this seems to be the official stand of the Christian community on homosexuality.

The New Paper yesterday approached the mainstream National Council of Churches of Singapore to comment on the Free Community Church.

Its response was to fax across a statement issued last year which said that homosexual acts are clearly against the teachings of the Bible.

But the council - which represents Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, among others - added that Christians shouldn't reject gay people or be homophobic and despise them.

Gays should be treated 'no less as persons of worth and dignity'.

The council, however, remained firmly against any action that might promote a gay lifestyle.

It urged the Government to continue to outlaw homosexual acts, and to retain the policy of not allowing the registration of gay societies and clubs, and the policy of not allowing the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle.

This statement was issued following some unhappiness in the community after Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong revealed last year that the Government no longer had qualms about recruiting gays into the civil service.

For Catholics, the Vatican website says the Bible condemns homosexual acts as a 'serious depravity'. But it adds gays 'must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity'.

Dr John Hui, Master of the Catholic Medical Guild, told The New Paper in an e-mail reply yesterday: '...while homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong and not to be condoned, those with homosexual tendencies must be treated with respect, love, compassion and sensitivity, like any other human being.'

He added that as far as he knew no-one has been expelled from the Catholic Church for being gay.

Reuters: Gay Culture in Singapore

Saturday, July 3, 2004

Sun Mar 7, 2004 12:07 AM ET
By Sophie Hares

In the dark studio at Singapore's spiky-roofed Esplanade theatre, 200 people packed tightly on to benches to watch a witty and poignant tale of gay life, love and loss being played out on a minimalist stage.

The content would barely raise an eyebrow in New York, London or Sydney, but the sell-out play featuring nudity and kissing signals the tentative start to a more liberalised era in strait-laced

With its soaring skyline and high-tech living, Singapore has claimed a place among the world's most modern cities, but government policy and social mores in the wealthy, multi-cultural island state are famously conservative.

There are signs, however, of low-key policy changes and budding tolerance for a thriving gay community in a country whose censorship laws are so strict that even brief glimpses of nudity are routinely cut from commercial movie releases.

"The scene has blossomed over the past five or six years, as the government has chosen to close one eye to the development of an entertainment industry catering to the gay crowd," said Alex Au from gay group People Like Us, which Singapore refuses to register as a society.

Podium dancers, pumping music and muscular boys stripping off their tops on packed dancefloors have long been a feature of busy gay clubs around Singapore's Chinatown.

But now gay-oriented karaoke lounges, saunas, cafes and bars are opening, and businesses are fast realising the so-called "pink dollar" is a lucrative market waiting to be tapped.

Airlines, car and credit card firms, and property developers promoting upmarket apartments have launched subtle marketing strategies to court gays and lesbians, who are often perceived as
high-earners with plenty of disposable income.

Among the bolder signs of change are a growing calendar of plays with themes of alternative lifestyles played out in mainstream venues such as the new Esplanade theatre, nicknamed the "durian" for its resemblance to the pungent, spiky fruit.

"The audiences do see in these plays the dilemma of what it means to be gay in straight Singapore," said Ivan Heng, director of "Landmarks: Asian Boys Vol.2", which opened at the theatre in early February.

"There seems to be much more freedom than there used to be, but as long as laws criminalise consensual acts between adults, it's still got some way to go."

Some now talk of Singapore usurping hedonistic Bangkok as Asia's gay capital after the wealthy island hosted a dance party known as "Nation" in August that drew nearly 5,000 people from around the world, an event unimaginable just a few years ago.

"Singapore's a very functionalist society. I don't think it has anything to do with issues of morality or anything like that," said Charmaine Tan, 27.

"In the end, the issue of economics will always override everything else."

Singapore quietly admitted last year that gay people could now be employed in the civil service without fear of discrimination -- another move almost unthinkable in the past.

But while there may be encouraging signs of change, the gay community in Singapore enjoys few of the freedoms of cities such as Sydney, with its huge Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, or Amsterdam, where same-sex couples may marry and adopt children.

And there are no signs it will remove controversial section 377A from its Penal Code which says acts of "gross indecency" between two men are punishable by up to two years in jail.

There are no laws specifically targeted at lesbians.

"I think the government could do a lot more in terms of being courageous enough at least to invite debate on the issue," said one gay man who declined to be identified.

"Saying things like it's too sensitive, or we are an Asian society, are really euphemisms for intolerance."


Hiding their sexuality from friends and work colleagues for fear of recrimination is still par for the course for many gays and lesbians in Singapore.

"Because Singapore is primarily Chinese, there's the issue of filial piety, there's always the pressure to get married and perhaps it's even more so in an Asian country," said Tan.

Resistance by gay organisations to the government's policies is surprisingly passive as some fear outspoken protests could spark a crackdown on the small concessions already won.

"Singaporeans as a whole are not a very vocal, politically inclined bunch of people. Because they're not outspoken, there isn't the same kind of backlash," said Stuart Koe, head of, which runs Singapore's main gay and lesbian website.

"People aren't going to march on the streets. I don't think there's ever going to be a gay pride march here in Singapore."

Despite the slow pace of change, many remain optimistic the government will eventually be forced to make more concessions to the gay community to bring Singapore into line with other modern states.

Although how long that takes, will be anyone's guess.

"When we see 50 percent of people under 30 have a gay friendly attitude, we know that time is on our side. The biggest problem is that this government doesn't answer to the people," said Au of People Like Us.