Contributor: Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, Member of Thai Parliament (MP)
My name is Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat (Kru Tun). I’m a member of Parliament (MP) and represent the Thai political Move Forward Party. I studied primary and secondary school at Saint Dominic School in Bangkok. Later on I graduated from Ramkhamhaeng University and finished my Master’s degree at the College of Management which belongs to Mahidol University, Thailand.
Please tell us the background in brief about social movement on marriage equality and your role as a representative of the party.
As we know, our ‘Move Forward Party’ (“Kao Klai” in Thai) was dissolved in the beginning of 2020. But our core value—equality—will be never demolished. We will continuously be working on this in the name of our party, the Move Forward Party. Marriage equality forms the basis of equality for human dignity and is part of the work we do. At that time, we took the best draft from citizens to study and develop it. As a consequence from what we learnt, we see the point of amending Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code regarding marriage equality. By amending the Section, we give the right to marry for all gender, including the age of consent to be married according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In other words, amending “man” and “woman” to “person”, and “husband” and “wife” to “partner” in the Code.
Please give us the current progressive status on the section 1448: The Civil and Commercial Code.
Now the public hearing is being processed on the website of the Secretariat Parliament until the end of July. Afterwards, comments from the departments and ministries will be added from the same questions. After we widely received all comments, all gathered information will be analyzed and published as a report, and submitted to the parliament to process the next step.
From now on it would take time—approximately six months to a year—for the parliament, because there are currently various proposals and issues awaiting.
What is the difference between “marriage equality” and “the Civil Partnership Bill”?
The term “partnership” doesn’t exist in any current Code, which is both in the Criminal and Civil Code so the the beneficial rights will not be equal to marriage, such as the rights to benefit jointly from welfare from the government as a governmental officer; tax deduction as a partner; the rights to be the guardian if one of the partners is a adjusted incompetent or quasi-incompetent; the rights to approve by signing an informed consent for medical service for the partner; the rights to manage the cremation of the partner; the rights to use the family name of the partner; the rights to register the nationality of the foreign partner etc. Moreover, the term “approval” will be applicable for this Civil Partnership Bill. However, applying for “approval” shall not harm the bill. As a consequence, misleading interpretations would occur and it may cause problems later. Because some issues need to be clarified for the right juristic procedure. In my opinion, if the sincerity is the highest importance for all, it shall be identified clearly in the law.
The advocacy of amendment Section 1448 of Civil and Commercial Code for marriage equality to all gender is viewed as giving more rights, comparing to the Civil Partnership Bill. Thus, do you think that the amendment Section 1448 and the Civil Partnership Bill has any different core value?
From a comparative view, the Civil Partnership Bill can be viewed as both equal and non equal compared to the amendment Section 1448. For instance, in Great Britain and also in France, the Civil Partnership Bill is very progressive as it is applicable to all gender in society. Furthermore, citizens from all gender can choose to register and choose between the Civil Partnership Bill or marriage certificate. Reversely, in Thailand, the Civil Partnership Bill by the Ministry of Justice has an unclear definition regarding protecting rights. That is the first point. The second point is the specification in the bill as “same-sex” couple. Thus, it can be defined in many ways as “same-sex partner” or “same-sex marriage”. However, it depends on the debate in the parliament and voting cast to see the next step of both amending Section 1448 and the Civil Partnership Bill.
Do you think that the voting Civil Partnership Bill will be achieved in the parliament?
The Civil Partnership Bill has more opportunity to be achieved because this bill is supported by the government. However, regarding marriage equality for all gender, I think this is a crucial issue for every section or party to pay attention to, as this is related to equality and basic rights for all citizens. Moreover, this is the most crucial step that the government would grant to both the bill and the amended Code. This action also reflects parliament members’ perspective on gender equality. So, we will see it soon.
How the parliament member, including governmental section react to the marriage equality?
As per discussion with various sectors, opposition parties and some coalition government parties mostly agree with our party. However, we cannot finalize this reaction as we have to wait for the voting cast. Currently this issue is in the public eye. It will depend on the political context which might affect the voting. As for now we have to wait and see.
Are there any opposite groups? (Such as religious groups, etc.) And how the working group deal with these groups of people?
Actually, there is no relation or any concern between religious issues and registration of marriage certificates. Because belief is about individual spirituality and leads to religious ceremonies. Speaking of rights and duties, which is the registration of a marriage certificate, these are the basic rights that the state has to provide to all citizens. The registration of marriage certificate can be processed with or without a religious ceremony.
Tourism Authority of Thailand promotes the tourism and invite LGBTQI people as the target group to come and travel in Thailand. Do the tourist sectors and private sectors have any role to support the marriage equality for all gender?
Prior to the amendment of Section 1448, the private sector actively supports gender equality issues, such as opening zones in order to support entrepreneurship especially in the major cities as the touristic hubs, for instance night cabaret shows and entertainment clubs. However, more support on gender equality is still needed due to partial operation of the tourism business. Moreover, discrimination and stereotype amongst gender still can be found. As a consequence, LGBTQI people are not allowed to do some work.
However, the image of night cabaret shows and nightlife entertainment interestingly attracts a lot of tourists and supports the LGBTQI friendly image of Thailand.
APCOM hosted a panel at the Australian Embassy last year on economic inclusion of LGBTQI and the private sector. What do you see as the role of community networks like APCOM to bridge the gaps between the private sectors and NGOs?
Civil society plays a significant role as the gathering hub of problems and social movement issues. Besides various types of issues, there are also specialists who work on various specific issues in order to develop the policy planning. Moreover, civil society acts like the mediator and communicate directly to the related stakeholders.
Including networking with private sectors, this will increase good and mutual understanding of gender diversity issues at various levels. As a consequence, it leads to building a hub of ideas to raise awareness and develop the work we are doing.