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Thailand’s same-sex marriage policy and pink baht

BANGKOK: For three decades, Dujruedee Thaithumnus has officiated symbolic weddings between same-sex couples on the white sand beaches of Thailand’s Samui island.

As Thailand prepares to legalize LGBTQ marriages, Dujruedee is eager to officiate legally recognized ceremonies for the first time and benefit from the “pink baht.”

“Samui has all the necessary elements to organize weddings; the island is a one-stop shop. After the bill passes, I have no doubt we’ll be on the world map as an LGBTQ wedding destination,” said Dujruedee, who charges between $1,000 and $50,000 for her beach packages.

“I’m thrilled beyond words,” she added.

Thailand’s marriage equality bill recently cleared its final parliamentary hurdle. To become law, it still needs royal assent, a step seen as a formality. Once enacted, Thailand will join Taiwan and Nepal as the only places in Asia where same-sex couples can legally marry. Activists hope the first same-sex weddings will take place as soon as October.

With the law finally catching up to Thailand’s broadly accepting attitudes towards sex and gender, numerous businesses, from wedding planners to hotels, malls, medical institutions, and mortgage brokers, are poised to benefit.

The law will not only create new income streams for event planning businesses but also grant LGBTQ couples legal recognition of joint ownership of property, mortgages, and insurance plans for the first time, opening up new opportunities in financial services.

Ploy Rahong, a real estate broker on Samui Island who plans to wed her girlfriend in October, is already thinking about how to target sales of homes, island getaways, assisted living, and retirement communities at the LGBTQ community. “We want to create something special on the island, specifically for these couples,” she said.

Thailand’s Pride month celebrations, especially visible in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai, are estimated to generate up to $120 million in tourism and extra spending. Bangkok’s Pride month festivities, billed by Thai authorities as the largest in Asia, featured parades, drag catwalk competitions, art exhibitions, pop-up markets, and concerts.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has strongly backed the law, seeking an economic boost for Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, which has struggled to match the post-pandemic recoveries of its regional peers. Thailand’s central bank forecasts the economy to grow by 2.6 percent this year, up from 1.9 percent in 2023, but still behind neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia.

“The government is ready to support Pride Festival … to boost the nation’s economy, especially in terms of spurring tourism,” Srettha said at the start of the closing “Love Pride Parade.”

In late July, Thailand will formally bid to host World Pride in 2030. Thongnakarin Sukvatanachaiwongs, co-founder of Prism, an EDM festival targeting LGBTQ customers, estimates Thai-run festivals aimed at the community are currently worth about $10 million a year.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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