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Transvestites,
exempt from Thai military, no longer classified as having
"mental disorder"

Transvestites,
exempt from Thai military, no longer classified as having
"mental disorder"

Bombarded by complaints from transvestites and transsexuals, who are exempt from the Thai military because they have been classified as having a "mental disorder," the Thai army is amending the law to omit the words and keep up with a changing society, an official said Wednesday. All Thai men at the age of 20 are required by law to register to serve in the military as conscript soldiers. Recruits are selected in a lottery system, but each year thousands of men who dress or have undergone surgical procedures to look like women receive certificates of exemption that are stamped "Due to mental disorder." "The existing conscription law has been promulgated since 1954, when there were few homosexuals and transvestites, but society is changing very fast, so the army is in the process of amending the law and omitting those words from the certificate," said Lt. Gen. Arthorn Lohitkul, director general of the Army Reserve Command. Arthorn said that the army requires 80,000 new conscripts each year and that 1% to 2% who show up for the lottery are either transvestites or transsexuals. Gay rights activist Natee Theerarojnaphong launched the campaign to have the words omitted from the conscript exemption. "No employer wants to hire anyone with a record of 'mental disorder' to work in his company," Natee said, adding that people with mental disorders are also unable to make certain legal agreements. A celebrity Thai-style kickboxer who underwent surgery to become a woman, Parinya Charoenphol, complained on local television after being exempted from the military. "The words 'mental disorder' marked on the certificate seriously affects our lives," said Parinya, who as a man used to wear makeup for bouts and kiss opponents after winning fights. Thailand is a Buddhist country where gays, transvestites, and transsexuals are largely tolerated. Gay and transvestite actors play key roles in Thai movies and television soap operas. (AP)

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