Thailand university ordered by court to rehire transgender lecturer

PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

The Central Administrative Court has ordered Thammasat University to rehire a transgender person as a lecturer.

The verdict in favour of Kathawut "Kath" Khangpiboon, which came out yesterday, said the university's reasons for not hiring her are illegitimate.

"Although she might have some impolite words and inappropriate pictures on social media, those actions are not prohibited characteristics for university officials," the court said in its statement. It overruled Thammasat's decision, made a few years ago, not to hire Kathawut as a lecturer.

"I hope my case will set a precedent, boosting job opportunities for people of all genders," Kathawut said.

At that time, Kathawut had already sailed through the recruitment process and been teaching at the university's Faculty of Social Administration. Despite the faculty's approval of her employment, the Thammasat executive board blocked Kathawut from being hired as a permanent lecturer.

Kathawut took the case before the Central Administrative Court, which ruled yesterday that Thammasat must sign an employment contract with her within 60 days of the ruling.

Kathawut "Kath" Khangpiboon speaking to reporters.Photo: The Nation/Asia News Network

However, the court dismissed Kathawut's request for compensation of Bt363,000 (S$15,253) plus Bt23,700 a month to cover the cost of lost opportunities since the day she filed a complaint.

Thammasat can appeal the decision within 30 days.

"If it rehires me, I will definitely go back. I have intended to work as a lecturer all along," she said.

While Kathawut suspected that Thammasat was biased against her for her gender identity, the court yesterday said the case was not about gender. Thammasat staff had said they had concerns that Kathawut's social-media style was inappropriate and might hurt the university's image.

National Human Rights Commissioner member Angkhana Neelaphaijit, who was in court to observe the case, said: "This case underlines the rights and equality of people, regardless of their age or gender."

Chumaporn Tangkliang, a core member of the Togetherness for Equality and Action Group, which has been promoting the rights of LGBT people, said the public response to Kathawut's case was amazing.

"They don't see Kath as a transgender, but more like a woman," Chumaporn said. "The verdict in favour of Kath is seen as a victory on International Women's Day."

Sitting inside the courtroom with Kathawut, Chumaporn said she had seen an open-mindedness and liberal attitude in the court.

"For example, the court does not see Kath's social-media posts as unethical. Those posts are not public. They are information Kath has shared with friends," Chumaporn said.

She added that the court had also dismissed Thammasat's suggestion that Kathawut's social-media complaints about having to wear trousers during a training course reflected that she was not suitable for a teaching job.

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