The Murder of a Transgender Lawyer in the UK and Transgender Rights in Thailand

by Admin on October 29, 2010

In recent news in the UK, a well known human rights attorney, David Burgess, was murdered in the London Underground. It is unclear at this time whether the murder was related to his transgender status. Mr. Burgess’ transgender status was apparently known to his colleagues and if his status impaired his professional status, or to what degree, that impairment is not known. However, reports indicate that Mr. Burgess did not hide his transgender status from family and work associates.

Despite the visibility of transgenders in Thailand, there are few represented in professions and public life other than in the entertainment industry. An informal survey of Thai people indicates that almost all well known transgenders in Thailand work in the entertainment industry. There are few, if any, acting as courtroom lawyers, politicians or judges.

The Lawyer Act of Thailand does not forbid cross dressing, nor does it discriminate based on gender or sexual preferences. The code of ethics of Thailand Lawyers requires only that lawyers appearing in Court dress respectfully. There is no restriction as to cross dressing. Court personnel have indicated that transgenders can practice in Thai Courts as long as they dress respectfully.

Other aspects of Thai society are perhaps less progressive. Each year thousands of men are conscripted into the military and a certain proportion of those young men are transgendered. Traditionally, transgenders have been excluded. Unfortunately one of the main grounds for exclusion has been “permanent insanity” and “mental illness”. This designation was recently challenged by Samart Meecharoen, a young transsexual or “katoey” as they are known in Thailand.

Samart Meecharoen, aka Namwan, sued the Thailand Ministry of Defense a couple of years ago after the declaration of “permanent insanity” was written in her official record and then served to severely damage her chances at a stable career. As most employers in Thailand require their male interviewees to provide proof that they’ve stood for the national draft, this places most katoeys into an uncomfortable situation with irreversible negative consequences if their official record claims them to be insane.

Recently, due to Samart’s case, Thailand’s military has begun to refrain from such career-damaging classifications. The Ministry of Defense still retains the legal authority to dismiss katoeys as mentally ill, but this has become much less common.

The Thai military is now considering a new classification to dismiss transgender draftees from the pool of qualified candidates. When translated into English, the new language states that the transgender individual’s body is not consistent with their birth sex.

Related Articles and Documents:

Transsexuals and Thai Law

Legal Rights of Transgenders in Thailand

Guidelines for Sex Change Operations in Thailand

Sex Change Law in Thailand

Sex Laws in Thailand

The Uniting American Families Act and Gay Couples in Thailand

Thailand and US Debates on Migrant Workers

US Immigration and Thai Sex Workers

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