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Annual Singapore gay party moves to Phuket after police ban (AFP)
7 Jun, 2005

SINGAPORE (AFP) - This year's edition of an international gay and lesbian party will be moved to the Thai resort of Phuket after the Singapore police turned down an application for a permit, organisers said.

Fridae.com, a gay website which had organised the festival in Singapore since 2001, said the police earlier this month rejected its application for a permit because it would be "contrary to public interest."

Police confirmed they had turned down the application to hold the event from the evening of August 6 until early morning the following day.

"Police's assessment is that the event is likely to be organised as a gay party which is contrary to public interest in general," a police spokeswoman told AFP.

The event, one of Asia's most popular gay and lesbian festivals, will now be held from November 4-6 in Phuket, which is struggling to bring back tourist revenues following the devastation of the December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Held on Singapore's Sentosa island yearly to coincide with Singapore's National Day in August, the party had been increasingly attracting thousands of participants from around the world since it was first staged.

It attracted 8,000 revellers in 2004 of which 40 percent were international visitors, Fridae.com said in a statement.

"We are disappointed that the authorities have deemed a National Day celebration by Singapore's gay citizens as being 'contrary to public interest,' when it had previously been approved four years without incident," said Fridae.com chief executive Stuart Koe.

"This is a direct contradiction to previous calls for embracing of diversity."

The police ban came three months after Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan said the festival may be behind a sharp rise in the number of new HIV infections in Singapore.

Balaji told parliament in March he based his statement on the opinion of an unnamed medical expert.

"An epidemiologist has suggested that this may be linked to the annual predominantly gay party in Sentosa, the Nation party, which allows gays from high prevalence societies to fraternise with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community.

"However, this is an hypothesis and more research needs to be done by the experts," the minister said.

A record 311 people in Singapore had contracted HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS last year -- up 28 percent from 2003.

Balaji said 90 percent of the people who contracted the virus last year were men, with a third of them gay.

There are now more than 2,000 HIV or AIDS confirmed patients in Singapore.

Fridae.com, which bills itself as Asia's largest website for gays, angrily rejected Balaji's comments.

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