Sunday, November 11, 2007

MORE PICS & Video – Bersih Rally Obstructed; Over 30K to Palace Delivered Memo; Tear Gas & Chemical-Water Canons Fired; 245 Arrested & Released

Malaysiakini monopolized the Bersih Rally report on Nov 10 almost exclusively with a Live coverage on

LIVE reports: The Bersih rally

Organisers hail banned rally a success

Bersih plays cat-and-mouse with cops

and latest ON Acid rain in Masjid Jamek
Due to overwhelming traffic, it has established a Parallel Site at

UPDATE: Nov 12 ; 9.30am
and reaction from a Genius, a new kid on the block with a one track mind who thinks he has ALL the solutions to Current Malaysian Problems. He is just more connected in some ways
= == = == = == = == = == == = == = == = =
ABOVE: What was the Starry Eyed reaction?: still very confused about "street demonstrations" and "prevented from attending a Rally". And with a police permit, the BN can bring in 1,000,000 people (see below)

November 11, 2007 20:07 PM

Community Leaders Urged To Ensure Racial Issues Not Played Up

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 (Bernama) -- Community leaders must do their part to ensure racial issues are not played up, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. He said that as each race had its own sensitivities, any issue relating to race, religion or culture should be resolved through discussions. "Obviously, it is not something easily done. Nevertheless, all citizens must harbour ambitions to become one race, the Malaysian race,irrespective of descendancy or beliefs," he said when opening this year's national-level Deepavali open house here Sunday.
Some 10,000 people attended the open house held over four hours from
2pm. Also present were Cabinet ministers and a number of VIPs. Najib said that although Islam was the official religion of the nation, the Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion to people of other faiths. "In fact, under the national education system, education in the mother-tongue in national type-schools is still protected," he said.

In terms of politics, Najib said the country had practised the concept of power sharing since it achieved independence 50 years ago. As such, the Deputy Prime Minister said the people need not resort to street demonstrations to make demands and furthermore it not being a Malaysian culture. "Yesterday, some quarters wanted to gather 100,000 people (to make street protests). The Barisan Nasional (BN) government can gather many times that number of people, but what is the use of demonstrating if it can bring down a country," he said.

  • BN can easily muster 1,000,000 or more people to come for a rally. UMNO alone got 3M + members. But what for? Simply to show support for BN?

He said if a nation is destroyed, it would be difficult to build it back. Najib called on all Malaysians to uphold the Constitution, make the Rukun Negara the basis of their lives and work hard to preserve the existing stability and harmony.= = == ==

Opposition Trying To Drag Royal Institution Into Politics - PM

PENAMPANG, Nov 11 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi described the action by the opposition in handing over a memorandum on the country's election process to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as an attempt to drag the royal institution into politics. "However, I believe the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is wise and will not be taken in by their tactics," he told reporters after opening Parti Bersatu Sabah's 22nd Congress here today.

Abdullah said this in reaction to yesterday's street demonstration organised by the Coalition for Clean and fair Elections (Bersih) in Kuala Lumpur during which 10 of its representatives, including Opposition chief Lim Kit Siang, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang handed the memorandum to an official at Istana Negara. On the illegal gathering, Abdullah said that he was leaving the matter to the police to handle.

"The police handled the demonstration very well and I'm very happy. We don't like things like this to happen. It is a burden to the police, In order to control the situation, they have to set up road blocks which inconveniences to the public. "The police discharged their responsibilities. This illegal gathering is not helping the people ... many are angry?????????," he added.

In SHAH ALAM, Selangor Menteri besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Khir Toyo described the demonstration as the work of "desperados". "However, it will be counter-productive for them as they have only caused difficulties for the people, who only want to see peace in the country. "It (demonstration) has also smeared the image of Islam as the religion prohibits such an action," he told reporters here today. He had earlier opened a treasure-hunt programme organised by the Selangor's Permanent Committee for Women's affairs.

= == = == = =Original Post Below

ABOVE & BELOW: The FRU Riot Squad came in the hundreds ready to strike and arrest the participants who actually did nothing wrong except to be in an "illegal gathering" for lack of a permit which the police refused to grant.

More pics coming...

MORE PICS & Video - Thousands Bersih Supporters Bypassed Police Handed Memo to King; Tear Gas & Chemical-Water Canons Fired; 245 Arrested

The police have vehemently denied that force had been used on the peaceful participants. It can be said the Police started the violence. They ordered the crowds to disperse and naturally having come all the way and from afar, they were reluctant and not quick enough to do so. For refusing, they were charged and chased and in some places the full force of the tear gas and chemically laced water canons were released on them.

ABOVE & BELOW: The FRU & Riot Police came announcing the crowd to disperse

From the visuals and pictures, it can be easily seen the Police & the FRU personnel were well armed and doing the provocations in chasing and arresting people and all participants were well behaved.
They have to chase them away with the lame excuse it was an illegal gathering, illegal because no permit was given with the perceived fears that “potentially jeopardise public order to be held as it considers maintaining peace and stability its topmost priority”

The participants were orderly and have not rioted or throw any stones. If they could have used a bit of common sense, the Rally at Dataran Merdeka with the speeches would have gone on smoothly and done with within an hour of two.But police were under strict orders to disperse first and even claimed “proactive action in keeping the illegal assembly under control averted untoward incidents” Now what untoward incidents they were imagining?

Eventually, they allowed the participants the final walk to the Istana and the ten leaders on behalf of all submitted the memo to the palace. The Agong was reported to be away at that time.

= == = == ==

LIVE reports: The Bersih rally Chronological Account from Malaysiakini
Nov 10, 07 --Despite an almost complete lockdown of the city by police and with the rally venue Dataran Merdeka sealed off, thousands of protesters are congregating in Sogo department store, Masjid Jamek, Masjid Negara and Pasar Seni.

4.30pm: Most of the protestors are seen walking back to Masjid Negara and the traffic is at a standstill. About 20 people have been arrested earlier today and they are being held at Pudu police station. When they arrive at Masjid Negara, they were told to go home. Some of them are going to the Pudu police station to support those who were detained
4.00pm: The Bersih delegation led by Anwar Ibrahim handed the memorandum to the King's representative at the gate of the Istana Negara. Anwar is accompanied by PAS' Hadi Awang and Nasharuddin Mat Isa and DAP's Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng. The organisers are asking the 40,000-strong crowd to disperse. Nasharuddin describes the event as a resounding success.

ABOVE: Datuk Anwar Inrahim, with Tan Sri Khalid, Opposition DAP Leader Lim Kit Siang & Others and BELOW: Pas President in Skull Cap, waiting to hand in the Memo at the Palace grounds

3.55pm: Anwar Ibrahim arrives on a motorbike to join Lim Kit Siang and Hadi Awang near Istana Negara. He and Hadi Awang give a short speech and are getting ready to move to the palace gate.
3.40pm: Another few thousand of protesters, mostly from Masjid Jamek, are marching to join the main crowd in Istana Negara. They are currently in Jalan Maharajalela, near the old KL train station.
3.30pm: Seven members of Bersih will be allowed to go to the gate of Istana Negara to hand in the memorandum calling for the King's intervention in instituting poll reforms. The delegation is waiting for ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim to arrive. He was caught in the traffic jam and will now travel by motorbike.

3.20pm: A Bersih delegation, which include Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang from DAP and PAS president Hadi Awang, is waiting about 100 metres outside the Istana Negara. The 40,000 protesters are on the highway and are being held back by riot police 200 metres from the palace.

3.15pm: About 2,000 protesters are marching from Sogo department store towards Istana Negara. They are currently in Jalan Raja Laut near Pertama Complex. The 500 from Pasir Seni have broken away from the stand-off with riot police near Dataran Merdeka, leaving the square completely quiet.

3.12pm: There is a stand-off between the 40,000 crowd and 150 riot police -backed by water cannon trucks (ABOVE) - about 200 meters from Istana Negara. Three police helicopters (BELOW) are hovering above.

== == = == == = == == == = == == = == =

ABOVE: Tens of thousand marching to the Palace and BELOW: Waiting for the momnet the Memo is to be handed in to the King

3pm: The crowd, now grown to about 40,000, reached about 300 metres from Istana Negara. PAS president Hadi Awang is leading them. Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim is due to arrive. There are people stretching over half a kilometre along the highway.

2.50pm: 10,000 who are at the Masjid Negara have begun marching to Istana Negara. (ABOVE) They split into two groups using two different routes. Rain stops.

ABOVE: The Bersih girls who came with own design wear and BELOW: the ones who came to keep clean & dry with extra plastic wear

2.45pm: The police have taken over the road outside Masjid Jamek after firing about a dozen rounds of tear gas. Many of the protestors move away from the area. Most of them have linked up with the crowd in Sogo department store.

2.40pm: The 500 Pasar Seni marchers are met by 100 riot police (ABOVE) about 50 metres from Dataran Merdeka. There are minor clashes but police have formed two lines of barricades, resulting in a stand-off.

2.39pm: The police in Masjid Jamek area begin firing several canisters of tear gas at the crowd in addition to discharging chemical-laced water. At least, four rounds of tear gas have been fired.

2.35pm: About 500 protesters to march from Pasar Seni towards Dataran Merdeka in heavy rain followed by 100 riot police. The group is led by Bersih leader Tian Chua, accompanied with shouts of Daulat Tuanku (Long live the King).

2.25pm: Crowd has increased to 2,000 in Masjid Jamek area. Water cannon fired several times. Crowd inside Masjid India and a bank opposite the mosque were hit. Protesters are seeking refuge inside the mosque and Masjid Jamek LRT station.

ABOVE & BELOW; The peaceful participants were shocked the chemically lazed water cannons were directed at them at the sidewalks. They had to seek shelter

2.10pm: The police fire chemical laced water cannons at 1,000 protesters in Masjid Jamek, near the LRT station. The attempt by the police to disperse the crowd was without any prior warning. Riot police are in formation outside the mosque. Another 500 protesters are inside Masjid India nearby. It begins raining

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November 10, 2007 20:11 PM

Police Free 245 Detained At Illegal Assembly

ABOVE & BELOW: The unfortunate & unlucky one who were caught

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (Bernama) -- Police have freed 245 people who participated in the illegal assembly here today after recording their statements, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said tonight. He said the 4,000 people who gathered for the assembly in the vicinity of Merdeka Square and Masjid Jamek were dispersed by police using tear gas and water canons. "Police had to resort to such actions because the protesters refused to disperse when ordered to do so. This forced police to arrest 245 of them," he told Bernama.

ABOVE: another one caught and BELOW: the one who ran, slipped and fell and was arrested

, he said when commenting on the illegal assembly staged by 26 non-governmental organisations and opposition parties to submit a memorandum to Istana Negara calling for reforms to the country's electoral system and the holding of fair and clean elections. The organisers, calling themselves the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or `Bersih' had initially planned to gather 100,000 people for the assembly which did not have a police permit.

= === = = == = = = == = =
November 10, 2007 19:38 PM

Proactive Police Action Averts Ugly Incidents At Illegal Assembly
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (Bernama) -- Police proactive action in keeping the illegal assembly under control averted untoward incidents in the city today. Although the gathering organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or better known as "Bersih" planned to gather 100,000 people, it only managed to attract a few thousand protesters. Dang Wangi OCPD ACP Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman said the 1.50pm gathering held without a police permit was well controlled. In fact, the police were prepared for any untoward incidents, he told reporters at Merdeka Square here. Zulkarnain said police deployed federal reserve unit, traffic and general-duty policemen from all district police stations to ensure law and order. Zulkarnain said several people were arrested under Section 27 of the Police Act for disobeying police instructions and participating in an illegal assembly. Upon conviction, they can be fined not less than RM1,000 and not more than RM10,000 or jailed for a minimum of one year or both.

However, he did not have detailed information on the actual number of people detained. The gathering, organised by 26 non-governmental organisations and participated by the opposition parties, had handed a memorandum containing several demands concerning the election process in the country to the Istana Negara.

ABOVE: Anwar who came in a Motor-bike met up with BELOW: DAP Leader Lim K S, DAP Sec General LIM G E and PKR Tan Sri Khalid

Ten representatives, including Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his wife, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is also Keadilan president, and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had handed the memorandum to the Istana Negara this afternoon. However, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, had left for Terengganu yesterday to participate in the 2007 Sultan's Cup Terengganu Endurance Challenge at the Terengganu International Endurance Park, Lembah Bidong which ends tomorrow. The gathering today had caused massive traffic congestions around Kuala Lumpur since early this morning. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday said those who had insisted on proceeding with the illegal assembly were actually challenging the country's law, not the government and its leadership.

Abdullah, who is also the Internal Security Minister, said those who resorted to street demonstrations were defying the country's laws and did not respect principles of democracy practised in the country. On Thursday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan reminded the people not to participate in the assembly as it had not obtained the necessary permit and police would not hesitate to take stern action to avert the gathering.

= == = == = =
November 10, 2007 22:40 PM

Maintaining Public Order Remains Top Priority - Najib

PEKAN, Nov 10 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the government does not allow assemblies that may potentially jeopardise public order to be held as it considers maintaining peace and stability its topmost priority. The deputy prime minister said that illegal assemblies could lead to all sorts of repercussions and cast a negative light on society besides causing hardships and raising fears among the people. "Although some groups are clamouring for the right to hold such assemblies, maintaining peace, stability and public order are the topmost priority of the government. "That's why the police don't allow such gatherings because anything can happen in that kind of situation," he told reporters after opening the `Pusat Anak Permata Negara', an early childhood education and care centre in Felda Chini here today.

He was commenting on today's illegal assembly organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or "Bersih" comprising 26 non-governmental organisations and opposition parties, to hand over a memorandum containing their demands, to Istana Negara. To a question, Najib said it was up to the authorities to take action against those involved in the assembly which had been organised without a police permit. Around 4,000 people gathered in the vicinity of Merdeka Square and Masjid Jamek before proceeding to Istana Negara. Police freed 245 people who participated in the gathering after recording their statements.
In SUNGAI PETANI, Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said holding illegal assemblies, like the one which took place in
Kuala Lumpur today, was not part of Malaysian culture. He told reporters that this was because Malaysians generally preferred to settle problems or grievances through dialogue and negotiation.
In KOTA KINABALU, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili ticked off groups bent on fanning anti-establishment sentiments among the people.

November 10, 2007 20:41 PM
Zam Refutes Al Jazeera's Claim Police Used Force On Protesters

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (Bernama) -- Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin has refuted satellite television station Al Jazeera's claim that police had used force on hundreds of protesters here today. He told the station that police had tried to disperse the protesters by using water cannons as the gathering was illegal. "When they refused to disperse, the police allowed them to march to Istana Negara to hand over a memorandum demanding for a clean and fair election. "The police managed to handle the situation as best they could," he said over the phone in a live interview by Al Jazeera here. He was responding to the illegal assembly organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or "Bersih" comprising 26 non-governmental organisations and which also involved opposition parties, to hand over the memorandum containing their demands, to Istana Negara.

Asked why Malaysia did not allow such gatherings, Zainuddin said they were unnecessary because general elections had been held without fail in this country and according to the scheduled dates. The minister also hit out at Al Jazeera for having the wrong perception when posing questions. Al Jazeera reporters had their own perceptions about Malaysia before coming here, he said, adding that "Malaysia is not Myanmar or Pakistan; it is a democratic country".

Zainuddin said many television viewers in Malaysia were laughing at the antics of the Al Jazeera reporter who seemed to be trying to portray the situation as ugly. "The reporter was seen shouting, so much so the situation seemed unreal to the viewers." He also criticised Al Jazeera for only interviewing journalists known to be pro-opposition but not getting the government's views.

= = = = == = == = == = Statement from Bersih Secretariat

Memo handed to palace officials despite efforts to ensure otherwise

KUALA LUMPUR - A mass rally organized by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) to demand for electoral reforms gained momentum managed to successfully hand over a memorandum to HM Yang diPertuan Agong (the King) despite persistent actions by the police to deter and intimidate the crowd.
ABOVE & BELOWS: Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) was completely cordoned by the police.
The crowd then decided to make its way to the National Palace after the original venue of the rally,

In the last two days prior to today's event and right up to today, the police and the government had pledged to come down hard on the participants of the gathering:
• Roadblocks were launched on all major arteries into Kuala Lumpur, the venue for the rally.
•Participants were harassed, the yellow t-shirts specially made for the event confiscated.
•Buses were asked to turn back at the toll plazas, and some buses ordered to the police stations.
•Plainclothes policemen were placed on public transportation such as the LRT.
•The Komuter trains and LRT were not allowed to stop at the stations closest to the venue, causing many to miss the event.
•Cars carrying 3-4 passengers were searched for Bersih-related materials such as T-shirts and headbands.
Police had tried to stop the participants with water cannons and teargas at the four meeting points (Masjid Jamek, Central Market, Sogo and Masjid Negara) as well as when the crowd tried to make their way to the
National Palace, but later allowed them to proceed.

The crowd in total was estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000, making this the biggest public gathering in the country. Needless to say, that figure would have been much higher had the police not prevented the people from attending the rally.

ABOVE PKR Defacto leader Datuk Anwar Ibrahim and BELOW PKR Treasurer Tans Sri Khalid Ibrahim seen walking towards the Palace

The memorandum was handed over to palace officials between 3.45pm and 4pm. The delegation included Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim (Advisor to Parti Keadilan Rakyat-PKR),

Lim Guan Eng (ABOVE Right)(Sec-Gen of the Democratic Action Party-DAP), Lim Kit Siang (ABOVE Left) (Parliamenatry Opposition Leader-DAP), Dato' Seri Haji Hadi Haji Awang (BELOW, white Cap) (President of Parti Islam SeMalaysia-PAS), Dato' Kamaruddin Jaafar (Sec-Gen of PAS), Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad (central committee member of PAS), Teresa Kok (ABOVE Center) (MP for Seputeh-DAP) and Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim (Sec-Gen of PKR) and Tan Kok Wai (MP for Cheras-DAP).

The memorandum contained a long-term agenda for electoral reform as well as the four immediate demands which are at the core of BERSIH's campaign, namely:
•The use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting •The abolition of domestic postal voting for the armed forces •Cleanup of the electoral rolls •Fair and equitable access to the national media

The memorandum also called on His Majesty to:
•Heed the demands of the people for widespread electoral reform, including the establishment of a Royal Commission to review and reform the electoral system
•Use his authority under Article 40(2) of the Federal Constitution to overrule any decision to dissolve Parliament as long as these four immediate demands are not met.

Immediately after the handover of the memorandum, there were a few more arrests made. At this point in time, 23 people have been detained at the Kuala Lumpur Police Headquarters, according to our lawyers. Bersih condemns the arrests of peaceful demonstrators and the use of teargas and water cannons by the police, and demands that all those arrested be released immediately.

Bersih sees the flawed electoral process -- which virtually guarantees the perpetual rule of the governing Barisan Nasional -- as the core cause of the exploding political, administrative and judicial rot in Malaysia, with far-reaching implications on the economy and society at large.
Bersih commends and applauds the people for braving the rain and intimidating police actions, to turn up and support the campaign for electoral reform.
"Only when elections are clean and fair, can citizens be real masters of their own destiny and expect holders of public office to act accountably and effectively."

= == = == == = == =
Why are you afraid of international monitors EC? - Anwar
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 (ES) - If the Election Commission(EC) is confident of the integrity of its management of the electoral process then why did it not allow international monitors into the country to observe and report Anwar recently asked. "Why have the offers of assistance by regional and international bodies been ignored or rejected?," Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (BELOW, holding his extra 10 sec Video Clip in his thumb drive) said, ahead of a peaceful mass gathering and rally to be held tomorrow.

The former deputy Prime Minister also urges the authorities to respect the people's democratic right to peaceful assembly.
"I commend Bersih (the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections) for organising this peaceful assembly and I urge all Malaysians to participate in this historic event," he said.
"We Malaysians deserve a democratic government that we are proud of and for that we must be willing to fight," he said in a statement sent to the media yesterday.

= == = == =

Government uses police to silent groundswell of dissent ahead of upcoming polls

ISUARAM strongly condemns the arrests of at least 28 persons, including women, and the use teargas and water cannons by the police during a rally in Kuala Lumpur today (10 November 2007). The rally calling for free and fair elections in Malaysia was organised by BERSIH, a coalition of over 70 civil society groups and political parties, including SUARAM. The actions of the police in trying to stop the rally before it even started and in arbitrarily arresting the peaceful participants during the rally is a gross violation of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which is the highest law in the country, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It must be stressed that even before the rally started, the police had already set up roadblocks to check all buses and cars coming in from outside Kuala Lumpur . Several roads leading to the originally-planned venue, Dataran Merdeka, were sealed at key entry points, while train service to a station near the venue was disrupted. Members of the public were also subjected to checks at several locations and many were refused entry into the vicinity of the venue.

SUARAM deplores the police’s unnecessary actions to intimidate the public from participating in the rally despite the assurances made by the organisers to the police of the measures that will be taken to ensure order and peace during the rally. In view of the intimidation and warnings by the police to arrest any member of the public who attended the rally, it is clear that the police did not even attempt to perform their duties to ensure public order during the rally. Rather, judging by the stern warnings given and roadblocks set up, we view that the police had aimed to stop the rally by whatever means – including the use of force. This was proven when the police started spraying over a dozen rounds chemical-laced water and teargas at Masjid Jamek, one of the meeting points for the rally, even before the scheduled rally had started.

Further, as in other previous peaceful demonstrations, there were eyewitness reports of plainclothes police personnel trying to harass and instigate violence in the crowd of peaceful demonstrators. We view the police's attempts to stop the rally, the use of water cannons and teargas, and the subsequent arrests of at least 28 peaceful demonstrators as the government’s deliberate attempt to stifle the groundswell of dissent in view of the upcoming general elections which is widely believed to be held in the nearest time. This was confirmed when the Prime Minister himself warned of harsh actions and bluntly said during the President’s speech in the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party general assembly on 9 November 2007, that he "do[es] not like to be challenged", in response to the proposed rally. The arrests, intimidation and attempts to stop the rally expose the pretense of Malaysia in the international community as a country that upholds democracy and human rights. We call on the international community to condemn Malaysia for paying no regards to the fundamental right to freedom of assembly even though it is a member with the United Nations Human Rights Council. SUARAM demands that all those arrested by the police be released unconditionally and immediately. We further demand that the police be held accountable for the arbitrary and unnecessary arrests, and the use of teargas and water cannons on peaceful demonstrators. John Liu; Coordinator SUARAM; 10th November 2007

= == = =Watch the Video Clip within Clips On The Bersih Outing on Nov 10 07

being compiled & jigzaw, loading later

= == = == = == == = =and some Off beat lighter news
Nov 11, 2007, via STS

Thai crowned world's transsexual queen

Tanyarat Jirapatpakon (centre) of Thailand poses with runners-up Chanel Madrigal (left) of Philippines and Aleika Barros of Brazil after winning the Miss International Queen 2007 transsexual beauty pageant. – REUTERS

PATTAYA (Thailand) - DRESSED in a flowing yellow gown with matching earrings, a demure Thai business student wept and embraced her rivals after being crowned the world's most beautiful transsexual. Tanyarat Jirapatpakon was named Miss International Queen 2007 on Sunday, besting 23 stunning transsexuals who had come to the Thai beach resort of Pattaya from as far as Germany and Puerto Rico for a shot at the diamond crown. The Thai's extravagant yet elegant costumes and dedication to environmental causes helped carry the day, taking her past runners-up Aleika Barros of Brazil and Chanel Madrigal of the Philippines.

'I feel excited and so happy. Everybody enjoyed the contest and I didn't expect anything like this,' the 21-year-old said from atop her throne after winning US$10,000 (S$14,421) and the title. In a nation obsessed with beauty pageants and famous for its sexual tolerance, this elaborate contest is taken every bit as seriously as the more traditional competitions. Contestants' costumes can cost up to one million baht (US$33,000), and the audience was treated to all the glitz and glam of conventional beauty pageants, complete with swimsuit and evening-wear rounds.

'This is the night I have been preparing for my whole life,' gushed Colombia's Melania Armenta, a 25-year-old model. Festivities began on Saturday evening, with last year's winner Erica Andrews performing 'Mexican Aztec' - an upbeat, pulsating dance homage to her homeland complete with ancient pyramids, flashing native symbols and historic outfits. In the costume round, Tanyarat had to compete against a butterfly, a swan and a Mercedes Benz, but the top prize in the category was given to Japan's Beni Tsukishima for her authentic kabuki ensemble. Tanyarat's angelic white-beaded evening wear, fit for the grandest of galas, gave way to the more salacious floral pink bikini in the swimsuit competition, showing off her shapely legs and slim figure. But she finally wooed the crowd with dedication to loftier issues.

'Global warming is one of the most serious problems the world faces today,' she said when asked how she helps educate people on environmental issues. 'I tell them to 'think about it'. It's your world too,' she said.

The crowd, consisting of mostly Thais and the occasional bewildered tourist, cheered loudly for the homegrown favourite but were upstaged by feverish, flag-waving Filipinos who supported four of their compatriots. Tiffany's Show Pattaya, which runs the event and claims to be the world's largest transsexual cabaret, said more than 25 million Thai television viewers had been expected to tune in. Known in Thailand as 'kathoey,' or the third gender, Thai transsexuals have slowly been leaving cabarets for mainstream success in music and other endeavours, helped in part by the popularity of beauty contests. Participants praised Thailand for its progressive attitude towards sexuality. 'There is still a lot of discrimination against people like me in the Philippines,' said 24-year-old Rain Marie Madrigal, from Manila. 'Thailand is like a utopia for transgender people.' -- AFP

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Go H E R E Post on Zam's Radio Interview (Transcript) with Al Jazeera

plus inserted Video Clip 2 min on the Bersih rally


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