“In Cambodia, there are a lot of [LGBT] people who still live in the shadows and don’t want to come out because a lot of people don’t support them,” said Rattanack Ath, organiser of Asia Pride Games 2023, to be hosted in Cambodia for the first time. “I hope this event will change their perspective.”
Rattanack, affectionately known as Bong Nack, is currently putting the finishing touches to organising the Asia Pride Games 2023, slated to be held in May, after successfully bidding to host the annual event last year.
The three-day event will see some anticipated 200-plus competitors from LGBT communities in Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore head to Cambodia from May 25 to 28 to compete in volleyball, bowling, running and badminton.
The event, which will be held at Phnom Penh’s iconic Olympic Stadium, will run alongside the Kingdom’s annual Pride event on May 27, offering visiting competitors and spectators the chance to experience the country’s LGBT scene, as well as rich culture and vibrant capital life.
“We want to help the tourism sector a little bit and Cambodia’s LGBT community,” Bong Nack said. “I want people to see that we have a big community, so we’re organising Pride Cambodia at the same time as the Asia Pride Games.”
In addition to the official Games, telematches will take place on the sidelines for spectators to get involved in. “We’ll also have a daily match as more of a social thing; traditional games like tug-of-war,” said Bong Nack. “We want to encourage people from different countries to compete and learn about the local culture.”
The Games will wrap up with a grand gala dinner at Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh on May 28. Tickets are $60 and include food, free-flow drinks, entertainment and plenty of networking opportunities.
The running section of Asia Pride Games 2023 – a 5km Rainbow Run – will form part of the Pride day’s activities. It will be followed by a remork race, which will see teams of up to four people dash across the city in remorks solving clues to win prizes.
Evening activities include a Cambodian drag competition in the form of Reajiny Pride, a fashion show, concerts and DJs. While the final details are being hammered out, it is expected these events will also be held at Olympic Stadium.
“Last year, we attracted about 2,000 people to Pride and we’re looking to make it even bigger this year. With people coming from across Asia, we want to show our LGBT community with pride,” Bong Nack added.
With regard to the Asia Pride Games, Bong Nack has received the support of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, with the Minister giving his stamp of approval for the federations of relevant sports to help with any organisation.
Bong Nack plans to meet art students to commission pieces to showcase during the events. He is also seeking sponsorship to support the hosting of the Games and is currently forming a non-profit organisation to ensure the annual Pride event is sustainable into the future, while being able to deliver community awareness activities throughout the year.
“People are more accepting these days towards the LGBT community in Cambodia,” Bong Nack noted. “We’re trying to get celebrities to do something with the LGBT community to raise the profile. This year, there are boy-love movies coming out in Cambodia. This is a first and shows people are more accepting, but I still see bad comments on social media. In time, with these kinds of events, I think opinions will change.”
The inaugural Asia Pride Games took place in Taiwan last year as the successor to The Straits Games (TSG). TSG has taken place annually since 2002 but took on its current iteration to expand its reach to countries across Asia.
Tickets to watch Asia Pride Games 2023 are free. Registration for all of the events is available at https://khmer.lgbt/.