World Pride is almost upon us, and one of the best cities to celebrate was Siem Reap. Throughout the weekend of Friday, May 10 until Sunday, May 12, the city was alive with color and, more importantly, love and a strong sense of community.
Businesses came together to support the community by donating a percentage of proceeds of sales from the weekend to a local LGBTIQ+ movement — A Place To Be Yourself (APTBY) — and activities were held all throughout.
Keep reading to find out more about Pride in Cambodia!
Jana Walter from Bang Bang Bakery was one of the active organizers of Siem Reap Pride since the start. In addition to running one of the most delicious bakeries in town, she played a key part in ensuring that the weekend ran smoothly. Her reasoning?
“Support, showing a united front, standing close as a united community, and just to have great fun for a good cause,” Walter said.
A quick recap
For those of you who missed Pride in Siem Reap, here is a quick look at all the events that took place during this incredible weekend:
- Cocktail party at Miss Wong, where 15 percent of the proceeds were donated to APTBY
- Barcode Siem Reap gave out free vodka caramel shots to everyone wearing a wig
- Yogis participated in Fabulous Flow Yoga at Yoga Space Siem Reap, with all proceeds being donated to APTBY
- The ‘Gay-mazing Tuk Tuk Race’ sped around the city on a scavenger hunt, with all proceeds being donated to APTBY
- Mad Monkey Siem Reap hosted a Pride Pool Party (equipped with a DJ) and donated a percentage of all sales on food and beverages to APTBY
- The Rambutan Hotel and Resort hosted a wild Rainbows and Unicorns Pool Party, with a prize going to the best “Rainbow Unicorn Fantasy” costume
- APTBY held an open house to better inform the local community about what it is they are doing for the LGBTIQ+ community
- Wild Creative Bar and Rambutan Resort came together as one to host the Rambutan and Wild Splash & Chill Afternoon
- Sugar Beauty Boutique Hosted ‘Sugar Talks,’ in which six members of the LGBTIQ+ community came in front of the community to talk about their experiences and what they are passionate about
- The weekend ended with the Siem Reap Pride Clothing Party at Sokkhak River Lounge, with a lucky draw getting everyone who attended hyped up for the awesome prizes!
The LGBTIQ+ Community in Cambodia
With no anti-LGBTIQ+ laws in place, this community is certainly not privy to being discriminated against — by local authorities, businesses, members of the police, etc. With that being said, the community, in general, is more or less accepted.
For one, cities recognize Pride in Cambodia – for example, this celebration has been around in Phnom Penh since 2003. In 2017, the country even started publishing the first magazine for the LGBT community in Cambodia — Q Cambodia.
There is even a ‘life skills’ course in the making for school children which basically lets them know one important thing – it’s okay to be gay. According to an article by the Phnom Penh Post, the new course would teach children grades five through 12 about LGBT issues, sex, and gender-based violence. There is also additional coursework on issues regarding lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.
In the article, CamASEAN member Chhoeurng Rachana said that they would with closely with the ministry to see the new curriculum be implemented.
“We train the teachers to understand that there are not only [heterosexual] men and women, but also LGBTIQ,” Rachana told the Phnom Penh Post.
LGBTIQ+ Organizations in Cambodia
If you want even more information about the LGBTIQ+ community across Cambodia, be sure to check out the following organizations and movements:
- I Am What I Am
- RoCK (Rainbow Community Kampuchea)
- Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
- Micro Rainbow International (MRI)
- Destination Justice (DJ)
- KHANA Cambodia
Opinions, Attitudes, and Behavior toward the LGBT Population in Cambodia
While the Prime Minister in Cambodia, Hun Sen, encourages citizens not to discriminate those people who identify as part of the LGBTIQ+ community, there are, sadly, no laws in place which allow same-sex marriage.
The community will continue to fight for:
- marriage law
- adoption rights
- family records and national ID cards which state their sexual preference in order for them to receive full rights as citizens
Public displays of affection are normally frowned upon regardless of how they identify, so try to keep the public kanoodling to a minimum.
LGBTIQ+ Friendly Businesses in Cambodia
If you are part of this community and looking for ways to fill your days whilst exploring the Kingdom, be sure to check out the following businesses:
- Blue Chili in Phnom Penh (one of the longest running gay bars in Cambodia)
- Barcode in Siem Reap (late-night gay bar with live DJs and cabaret shows)
- Heart of Darkness in Phnom Penh
- Miss Wong Cocktail Bar Siem Reap
- Arthur & Paul (the first gay spa-boutique hotel-restaurant-bar in the Phnom Penh — men only!)
- Rambutan Resort (a gay-friendly resort in Siem Reap)
While gay culture is certainly thriving the most in cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, there is hope that other provinces and towns will follow suit with these types of celebrations.
David Stirling from The Little Red Fox Espresso was also extremely involved in the organizing and implementing of the Pride events that took place all over Siem Reap.
“Allies play an important part in the push towards equality,” Stirling said. “Showing up and being a part of such causes strengthens the belief of the inherent equality between individuals as human beings.
Pride Parties at Mad Monkey Hostels
Don’t forget to check out all of the Pride parties taking place on Saturday, June 29 at our locations around Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines. A percentage of proceeds from food and beverages at Mad Monkey Hostels in Cambodia will be donated to different location organizations which support the local LGBTIQ+ organizations in the city in which they are located, including APTBY in Siem Reap. Check out the rest of our awesome events!
- Phnom Penh Pride Pool Party: a percentage of all sales will be donated to Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK)
- Koh Rong Samloem Pridefest: a percentage of all sales will be donated to Micro Rainbow Cambodia
- Kampot Pride Pool Party: a percentage of all sales will be donated to Love is Diversity
- PRIDE at Mad Monkey Bangkok
- PRIDE at Mad Monkey Koh Phangan
- Pride Pool Party at Mad Monkey Cebu City
- Pride Beach Party at Mad Monkey Nacpan Beach
More Information About A Place To Be Yourself
Be sure to check out A Place To Be Yourself — all resources are available in both Khmer and English! This movement even has an entire gay guide to Siem Reap in addition to many more helpful and informative resources.
A Place To Be Yourself was founded by Jason, an Australian who moved to Siem Reap some five years ago. He originally came with the intent of volunteering for a stint, but he now calls Siem Reap home (this seems to be the case with all the expats here). After selling all of his belongings back home, he came to Cambodia and started to create materials in Khmer explaining what the ‘LGBTIQ+’ acronym actually meant.
It wasn’t long before Pov, is a young Khmer trans man, and later Kunthea, a translator during APTBY gender and sexuality workshops, joined this incredible team. Their main goal is to create a space for all LGBTIQ+ individuals which including peer support about sexuality and gender, counseling services and their rights in Cambodia.
More Information About the LGBTIQ+ Community in Cambodia
Did you love this article? Do you want to learn more about Cambodia’s LGBTIQ+ culture and how you can get involved? Then be sure to check out the following articles we have rounded up so that you can continue to be best informed before making your way to the Kingdom!
- Gay Culture for Move to Cambodia
- What’s It Like to Be LGBT in Cambodia? By Marissa for Culture Trip
- Is Cambodia LGBTQ Friendly? How to Stay Safe by El Salvato for World Nomads
- Kingdom not ready for LGBT laws: Hun Sen by Pech Sotheary for Khmer Times