In Thailand, Killings of Lesbians Go Unpunished


Back in December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a landmark report identifying that violence against LGBT people “tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes.” It said that states have an “obligation to exercise due diligence” to investigate and prosecute such crimes.

Thailand is a country often assumed to be LGBT friendly because of the tolerance that is part of Thai Buddhism, but human rights advocates are protesting a pattern of killings of lesbians and ‘tomboys.’ ‘Tom’ is a specifically Thai gender identity where lesbian women dress, act and speak in a masculine fashion.

Most of the killings have been dismissed by police as “love gone sour” or the fault of the victims.

They have verified information in 15 murder cases over the last few years, the youngest of whom was 17. In addition to being stabbed multiple times, suffocated, strangled, or shot to death, many of the lesbians and toms had also been raped. In two cases of double homicides, lesbian couples were killed by men who objected to their relationship and felt rebuffed when their attempts at coercing one partner into a heterosexual relationship failed.

24-year-old Nurisan Chedurame was described as a tomboy by those who knew her and in the media. Last December, she was found dead near her village’s garbage dump with her head smashed in. A three-inch club was found at the crime scene. Relatives said that Nurisan had not returned from being out with friends the night before. Thai media quote police as suspecting she was killed because “she was involved with women.”

Also in December, the body of 25-year-old tomboy Kanchana Changkwian was found two months after she went missing. In that case, police speculated that she had been raped and murdered “for becoming involved with a married woman.”

In another case from last year a ‘tom’ (who is not named in reports) was murdered by her girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Parents and relatives of the girlfriend (also not named) had opposed the relationship, and despite threats against the tom, had failed to stop the couple from continuing to see each other. The mother of the girlfriend engineered the murder of the tom and promised to marry off her daughter to the ex-boyfriend who committed the murder.

Most of the verified cases have not been properly investigated because of a failure to recognize possible hate crime motives.

Said Grace Poore, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC):

“The killing and rapes of lesbians and toms represents a callous disregard for humanity. The failure of the Thai government to prevent or properly investigate these killings are not only appalling, they are evidence of poor governance and blatant violation of international human rights law.”

IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have written to the Thai government demanding that this pattern of killings be investigated. The letter also makes a series of recommendations that authorities work with local human rights groups to ensure that LGBT people enjoy the protections they have under Thai law and that they educate both law enforcement and the Thai public about those protections.

Thailand has signed a number of international treaties that guarantee respect for human rights, and it was one of the countries which supported the process at the United Nations, led by South Africa, which has resulted in the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report.


Related stories:

UN Publishes Landmark LGBT Rights Report

The Swift Legacy of Chile’s Matthew Shepard (Video)

Historic UN LGBT Rights Session Sees Walkout


Photo from pchweat via flickr


Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

This is frightening.

Veronique L.
Veronique L5 years ago

Everything will go so much better with a little tolerance...

Stefanie D.
Stefanie D.5 years ago

Welcome to Thai culture!!!

Dominic C.
Dominic C5 years ago

I will still say that hate crime is rare in Thailand and many crimes are not properly reported. Yes, Thailand's law enforcement is pretty laxed. There are many crime bosses and cartels in the country and the law enforcement also is to an extent, corrupted. The incident above could be gang or mafia related. In Thailand, once you stepped into the bounds of the darkside its very, very dangerous. Individuals could have discovered something not to the liking of the gangsters or mafias and may disrupt their operations. Do you know how much effort was gone into to convince the Thai Government on human trafficking and drug trafficking? It involves not only the ASEAN, the US, the EU, Australia and Japan but also numerous NGOs from many of these countries to try and expose these crimes. Still it's not enough. Thailand is the only country if you drive around provinces, there is an English message saying if any individuals report any suspicious drug traffickers, they will be rewarded by the DEA. Thats why individuals like Victor Bout - the notorious weapons dealer was arrested in Thailand (with the help of American and DEA intel).

Mara C.
Past Member 5 years ago

I'm getting to the point where I don't care about what happens in other countries anymore with all of the crimes againt people and animals here in the USA.

Netty van Driest
Netty v5 years ago

Strange. Thailand is one of the few non-Western countries where male homosexuals and male-to-female transsexuals are accepted by most. And in most other countries, the Western ones included, female homosexuality is not as despised as its male counterpart. Often for the wrong reasons, but lesbians don't seem to provoke as much violence and hatred as gay men do.
So I find it notable that in Thailand it seems to be the other way around. Why is that? Male jealousy, not being able to stand the idea that a woman should prefer another woman above a man? I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. It's a sad story. A non-Western country that to me always appeared to be a haven of tolerance for LBGT people, and thus gave me some hope that things really can be better, is not as tolerant as I thought it to be.
And that makes me sad.

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher5 years ago

The biggest problem in this world is not gays, blacks, hispanics or orientals, no it's right-wing ignorants who sadistically hurt or kill anyone or anything. Because they can.
The times are a-changin' my friends.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran5 years ago


Nimue Pendragon

The authorities obviously don't give a damn.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for the update.