Thailand's Transsexual 'Ladyboys' Confuse Election Officials, Feel Marginalized

BANGKOK, July 1 (Reuters) - Thai election officials manning voting booths were ordered on Friday not to laugh at "ladyboys" who this week said they were being marginalized in Sunday's poll because of confusion over their ID card pictures.

It was the latest in a series of complaints by members of the Trans-Female Association of Thailand, which groups transgenders and transsexuals, known collectively as "katoeys" or "ladyboys".

Their ID cards, renewable every seven years, may show a woman's face marked "mister", or a boy's face when the ID card holder looks like a woman.

"In case of any problem in ascertaining the identity of voters, officials have a clear instruction to be polite in making inquiries and they must try their best to refrain from laughing," Election Commission secretary Suthipol Thaweechaikarn said.

He said card holders who had undergone cosmetic surgery or a major facelift should carry a number of identity cards bearing pictures of their various stages of appearance.

Everyone in Thailand has to carry a national ID card at all times from the age of 15.

Transgenders and transsexuals are accepted in Thailand more readily than in most other countries, with one new airline hiring only ladyboys as cabin crew. They are especially common in cosmetics shops and health stores and in bars in some ofBangkok's racier entertainment districts.

But Yollada Suanyoc, president of the 2,500-strong Trans-Female Association, said the government had been slow to accept them and accused society of grouping transgenders, transsexuals and homosexuals as one and the same when each group had its own issues.

Bangkok is a world centre for people seeking sex changes, or sex "reassignments", but the Tourism Authority of Thailand said it did not have exact figures on how many people visited the city for such operations. (Reporting by Vithoon Amorn and Nick Macfie; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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