Thai Prof Quits UN

Members of Thailand’s LGBT community said Thursday the resignation of Vitit Muntarbhorn, the United Nation’s first watchdog on gender, could slow gains being made globally.

Word spread Wednesday that the Thai law professor had tendered his resignation less than a year after he became the UN’s first independent expert empowered to investigate discrimination and abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. His appointment was met with open hostility by some delegations.

“Circumstances on continents such as Asia, Latin America and Africa need an independent expert, and Ajarn Vitit, who is qualified in the legal profession, has the ability to connect the contexts of law and universal human rights,” said Kath Khangpiboon of the Thai Transgender Alliance, likening his departure to the loss of a major community figure.

The 64-year-old Chulalongkorn University law professor cited health problems in his Sept. 8 resignation letter sent to the world body’s Human Rights Council. His resignation will be effective Oct. 31. Reached for comment, Vitit stressed that illness was the biggest factor in his decision. He did not elaborate.

“I’ve been ill for two months, and I want to reduce the load,” Vitit said Thursday afternoon, adding that he would travel to New York in October to present his final report.

Vitit was named to the newly created post in September 2016. He immediately faced fierce opposition led by delegations from Africa which launched a motion to suspend the position and Vitit’s mandate. It narrowly failed.

An LGBT rights political scientist said the loss of Vitit at the international level may not matter on the local level.

“It may not affect that much,” Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of political science at Ubon Ratchatani University, said Thursday. He said internal local forces fuel advances for LGBT communities more than UN oversight.

“Without Vitit’s role, it could slow down the process, but you can’t just focus on one organization,” Titipol said. “The most important things are domestic forces: LGBT individuals and communities, who are already working hard to fight for their rights.”

Supporters expressed their regret online. Read more via Khaos