First Thai transgender MP loses seat in Parliament

BANGKOK • The Thai Parliament has lost its first transgender MP after the constitutional court revoked her seat in what critics called a political move against supporters of the kingdom's pro-democracy movement.

Ms Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a film-maker, was a pioneer for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community when she won a seat for the Future Forward Party at last year's polls.

But the party was dissolved in February, a move that escalated discontent and fuelled pro-democracy activists' demand that the government step down.

Dozens of its MPs, including Ms Tanwarin, joined the Move Forward Party, but a judge ruled on Wednesday that, as a stockholder of a media firm, she had breached electoral law and must vacate her parliamentary seat.

"I'm not surprised - I expected this to happen," she told AFP, adding that she did not think the decision was related to her gender identity. "I will continue my work fighting for better outcomes for the LGBT community."

Thailand's transgender community is high-profile but faces education and workplace discrimination in the Buddhist nation. The country's Parliament still has three other transgender MPs.

Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat told AFP the ruling was disappointing but hailed Ms Tanwarin's legacy. "Even if we lose an MP today, I think we have a national icon when it comes to freedom and gender equality."

Ms Tanwarin is the latest casualty of a law that many claim the government is using as a political weapon.

"They are trying to use a legal mechanism against whoever they assume supports the (pro-democracy) movement," said political scientist Titipol Phakdeewanich.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2020, with the headline 'First Thai transgender MP loses seat in Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe