As Thailand battles with the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, with the country reordering close to 3000 new cases on Monday alone, 62 men on Saturday night were arrested for allegedly being in breach of the country’s COVID-19 restrictions in a raid on a gay “chemsex” party.

The raid was conducted by 30 police after neighbours suggested a group sex activity may have been planned, and it is believed that this is the country’s largest such crackdown during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After making the arrests on Saturday night at Faros Sauna in Bangkok , Police Colonel Ekapop Tanprayoon, superintendent of Bangkok’s Wang Thong Lang District police station alleged that police had found used condoms, needles and drugs in the raid

Pol Col Ekkaphop said that “(In the past) we have reprimanded people for gathering to drink at home. But under the current circumstances, there shouldn’t be so many people in such a crowded area,” he said, explaining  also that Faros Sauna 2 has “two buildings – one with 50 bedrooms – and a swimming pool and karaoke.”

Pol Col Ekkaphop added that following their arrest the men were taken to Wang Thonglang police station for questioning. The organisers and attendees of the party are now facing charges of violating Thailand’s COVID-19 restrictions, which were enforced last March and bring with them penalties of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,276).

The men were also brought in for urine drug testing, with police detecting drugs in 30 of the men. They will now be charged with further drug related offences.

Thailand, a largely conservative Buddhist society, decriminalised homosexuality in 1956 and has a reputation for its relaxed attitude towards gender and sexual diversity. Yet LGBTQI communities in Thailand still often face discrimination and stigma in schools, the workplace and in healthcare facilities, and are often rejected by their families.

President of the Bangkok Rainbow Organisation, Mr Nikorn Chimkong, said he was concerned the arrests would contribute to the image of gay men being “promiscuous” and “spreading diseases”.

“Chemsex parties are a new normal amid the pandemic, and what is worrying is the health of those attending, such as the risks of contracting Covid-19 and HIV.

 

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