Police have raided a chemsex party in Thailand, arresting dozens of gay men for breaching COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
“We have [previously] reprimanded people for gathering to drink at home,” said Police Colonel Ekapop Tanprayoon.
“But under the current circumstances, there shouldn’t be so many people in such a crowded area.”
Organisers and attendees of the party may face up to two years’ imprisonment and fines of around US $1,200.
Approximately 30 of the arrested men have also tested positive for drugs and may face related charges.
While Thailand has enjoyed a reputation for relaxed attitudes toward the LGBTIQ community since decriminalising homosexuality in 1956, members of the community still face widespread discrimination and are often rejected by their families.
Nikorn Chimkong, president of advocacy group the Bangkok Rainbow Organization, said that the arrests could contribute to the public perception of gay men as “promiscuous” and “spreading diseases”.
“Chemsex parties are a new normal amid the pandemic, and what is worrying is the health of those attending, such as the risks of contracting COVID-19 and HIV,” he said.
The use of drugs varies around the world, but LGBTIQ people are overall more likely to use recreational drugs, including in sexual contexts, for reasons that may include enhancing performance and coping with self-image or anxiety issues.
While not necessarily inherently harmful, chemsex can be associated with impaired judgement around sexual activity, increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, and other health consequences, especially when multiple drugs are used.
Thailand remains in lockdown amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections, with businesses closed and curfews in place since last March.
More than 65,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country so far, with at least 203 deaths.