Pride Festival Provides Inclusive Platform for LGBTQI+ Community

The public is being invited to join in the wealth of activities at this year’s Pride Festival, while pledging their support for the country’s LGBTQI+ community
Ath Rattanack, founder of the newly-established Pride Cambodia Organization. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Ath Rattanack, founder of the newly-established Pride Cambodia Organization. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Ath Rattanack, founder of the newly-established Pride Cambodia Organization, has urged public support for the upcoming Pride Festival in Phnom Penh as a chance for the LGBTQI+ community to come together and celebrate their diversity.

It is also an opportunity for the public to learn more about the LGBTQI+ community and show their support, Rattanack, 40, who also goes by the name of Bong Nack, said in an interview with Kiripost.

“Being LGTBQ is not easy in our society, even my family supports me but other people around me always say something bad to me when I post about LGBTQ on social media,” Rattanack stated.

"Please do not post again because I don’t want my children to see, children are the main resource to help society,” he said of a recent scathing Facebook comment about him.

He added that his family supports him but his neighbours do not. He said that some people do not understand the true identity of LGBTQI+, and with some misunderstanding comes discrimination.

However, he said, “If you compare the before and now generations, we can see they are now more open to LGBTQI+. We have been through contempt; the prejudice that we are told we are wrong and we aren't worth it, that we are a burden that degrades families. All of this has had a lot of negative effects on our lives, such as making us think we are really wrong and we aren't worth it, and we are very painful and blame ourselves."

Ath Rattanack, founder of the newly-established Pride Cambodia Organization. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Ath Rattanack, founder of the newly-established Pride Cambodia Organization. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Rattanack wants the festival, held on May 27, to change people's hearts and minds about negative views of the LGBTQI+ community. Pressure from society, discrimination, and violence are all serious problems that LGBTQI+ people face. Bad comments on social media can also be very hurtful, he added.

He said that it is important for the LGBTQI+ community to have events that are open to everyone, regardless of nationality or language. It is also important to host events that focus on celebrating and promoting equality.

He said that if all LGBTQI+ join the event, they will feel more confident because they can see that they are not alone and there is an LGBTQ+ community that is proud to show off themselves.

The festival will be open to all, including artists and businesses which support the community, to highlight the daily challenges the community face and solutions to deal with them.

Moreover, the free event will bring access and good connections among society and will take in entertainment, concerts, and some LGBTQI+ art shows and designs.

The festival will include a Rainbow Run in the form of a 5K Run for Pride, a Remork Race that involves a scavenger hunt to get to know the city, a show by Impulse Phnom Penh, Reajiny Pride: A Cambodian drag queen competition, a fashion show and a concert. The event will end with a DJ and dancing.

Rattanack said that the Rainbow Run! A 5K Run for Pride is a colour run at Olympic Stadium and participants will receive a shirt and a medal, with winners getting vouchers and prizes.

The Remork Race is an Amazing Race that takes place on a traditional Khmer TukTuk. Teams of three to four people will dash across the city to solve clues, hunt for hidden locations and landmarks throughout Phnom Penh, and compete to earn the most points throughout the course.

The Remork Race allows people to explore hidden pockets of Phnom Penh, where people can challenge each other, run around and meet others. There is no entry fee, but a donation is suggested on the day. All the money raised this year will be donated to the Pride Cambodia Organization, he said.

Reajiny Pride of Cambodia is a gender-inclusive drag pageant for contestants who believe in the power and importance of community service. A pageant winner is more than a titleholder.

They will live and breathe the spirit of pride and they will envision a world in which all LGBTQ+ people are affirmed, respected, and included free from any discrimination, rejection, or prejudice. It will entail two rounds of eliminations before the live show at Olympic Stadium.

For the fashion show, he said a team is trying to find six designers to design outfits for each colour to form a rainbow.

Rattanack knew he was LGBTQI+ since he was 18-years-old, and since then has been an avid activist trying to help other LGBTQI+ works and society.

He was born in Phnom Penh and studied Business Management at the National University Institute. He went on to study at the University of Washington, majoring in Applied Mathematics. Now he is a freelance web developer.

He founded Pride Cambodia Organization with a mission to provide support, resources, and advocacy for LGBTQI+ and create a safe and inclusive environment in Cambodia.