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Cambodia’s Pride ends in a rainbow tuk tuk race

Competitors in Cambodia Pride’s rainbow tuk tuk race. Photo: Emily Smith/SEA Globe

Pride events around the world tend to be fairly stock standard. They have parades, live performances and rainbow flags fly high.

But Cambodia’s pride parade ended with a record number of entrants in rainbow tuk tuk race.

In its fourth year, 64 colourful tuk tuks – also known as rickshaws – sped down the capital’s Phnom Penh streets competing in an elaborate scavenger hunt. Drag queens, people draped in rainbow flags and dressed in elaborate outfits whizzed past bemused locals.

The teams raced through torrential rain to pick up clues and get to checkpoints at the city’s numerous LGBTI bars and venues.

Cambodia’s 10-day Pride finished up last week with events honouring this year’s ‘I am what I am’ theme.

Tuk tuk rainbow race founder and organizer, David Hunt, described this year’s event as ‘just a wash of colour and diversity’.

‘The effort that went into those tuk tuks and those costumes,’ Hunt told the South East Asia Globe.

‘If you’ve had bad experiences with family or with the community, it means a lot that 300-plus people come out in support of this.’

A mix of locals and expats competed in the race, with a Cambodian team lead by Sopheap Chuk taking top spot on the winner’s podium.

Chuk and his team donated their winnings of just more than $775 to local LGBTI organization, Prumsodun Ok & Natyarasa.

The race helped raise the visibility of LGBTI people in Cambodia who still face stigma because of their sexuality.

While it is not same-sex relationships and sex are not illegal in Cambodia, a 2015 survey revealed almost one-third of people never come out.

Discrimination was the main reason for staying in the closet, with 86% of straight and 82% of LGBTI respondents identifying prejudice as the top problem facing LGBTI people.

Most LGBTI people only came out to close friends (77%) and a smaller proportion to immediate family members (54%).