David Crisp – Five years on

A Gay Community in Shock

David Crisp

In memory of David Crisp 1953-2009

Unbelievably, its now five years since the event that rocked Chiang Mai’s gay farang community perhaps more than any other in recent memory. Popular gay ex-pat and talented musician David Crisp was brutally murdered in his home by three hill tribe bar boys he’d befriended. After bludgeoning him to death and slitting his throat the perpetrators looted the house and made their getaway in one of David’s classic cars. We understand one of the gang is serving a life sentence for the murder

If you aren’t familiar with the story the following articles provide more information: David Crisp – Janaury 2012 and The Day the Music Died – Janaury 2013

David’s murder, coming only a month before the shutdown of Chiang Mai’s gay pride parade by homophobic red shirt protesters, marked the start of an introspective period of change and anger for many gays in Chiang Mai. A few months later, gay Chiang Mai was in the spotlight again, this time for the in your face Power Boys bar at the short lived Lavender Lanna hotel project which, like the gay pride parade was upsetting the red shirts perception of Lanna cultural sensitivities. Some of the appalling coverage of David’s lifestyle and murder from the gutter sectors of the Western Media also did nothing to enhance Chiang Mai’s gay credentials.

How things have changed

In part as a consequence of these events, gay life in Chiang Mai has irrevocably changed and is increasingly taking on new and much more positive directions. In the five years since the Police crackdown on Chiang Mai’s free-lance bar boys in the aftermath of David’s murder, social changes in Thailand have meant prostitution, and places where male prostitutes and their customers hang out have become progressively more stigmatised both in the eyes of the wider community, and Thai gays themselves. Whereas, the parts of the commercial scene that continue to thrive are those that operate discreetly down quiet sois behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, the internet has provided the perfect medium for gay encounters to move from traditional gay venues into cyber-space, with obvious consequences. If you want to meet guys for sex all you need is a smart phone or a laptop. The internet is the place to look whether your sexual interests are commercial or otherwise and the whole activity has become much less visible and discreet. However, the David Crisp story should remind us of the old adage “be careful who you take home with you”, wherever you find them.

Like Chiang Mai city itself which has changed enormously in five years, so has our gay lifestyle. In a rapidly developing modern cosmopolitan city there are so many new trendy places emerging where gays are happy to hang out and socialise without going to specifically gay bars. The Thai club scene has seen a major resurgence with the opening of See Man Pub then G-star and changes in the tourist demographics have played a part too. Indeed, the last year or so has seen a new exciting buzz emerging for gay life in this city.

Same Old Same

Sadly however, much less progress has been made in addressing two of the major contributory factors effecting the behaviour and lifestyles of David’s murders. Drug abuse, particularly among the city’s youth population remains an endemic problem, with methamphetamines, known in Thailand as Yaa Baa (crazy medicine) still appearing to be readily available. That is despite regular seizures of large quantities being transported from Burma and overt suppression activities by the forces of law and order.

Secondly, the continued existence of a social underclass of Burmese refugees and stateless hill tribe people mean the issues of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are still prevalent. Moreover, it is the lost youth from these social groups that are most at risk of being sucked into crime, drug abuse and prostitution. Although preparations for ASEAN in 2015 and changes within Burma have led to more Shan immigrants obtaining passports and immigration documents, the numbers living in Chiang Mai without documentation and at risk of exploitation are still large. And whilst Chiang Mai’s construction boom shows no sign of abating, neither will the demand for cheap labour.

Whilst, February 21st, the anniversary of the failed pride parade, has become an iconic date to remember violence and prejudice against LGBT people, with small symbolic gatherings being held in Chiang Mai, there seems little appetite for another gay pride event. Indeed, it seems unlikely that such an event could be resurrected any time soon, especially with tensions running high over Thailand’s current political crisis.

Murder Scene

News report of the murder in the Thai press – Be careful who you take home tonight

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