Thailand could be the first country in southeast Asia to legally recognise same-sex civil partnerships – if the government approves a new bill this month.

As well as LGBTQI relationships being acknowledged under Thai law for the first time, other changes would include inheritance and property rights for same-sex couples, and the right to give medical consent if their partner is sick.

However, they still could not marry and will not be able to jointly adopt children.

Chakgai ‘M’ Jermkwan, 33, married his husband Sean L’Estrange, 45, in America in 2012 – but their marriage is not acknowledged in Thailand.

In Thailand, our relationship is recognised as friends, Mr Jermkwan explained.

If I’m sick or if he’s sick we can’t sign for an emergency.

The pair said they supported a change in the law.

I think it’s a step in the right direction, Mr L’Estrange told Sky News.

It’s a positive move and a lot of the things we get through this are things that are important to M and I. I think obviously we would like to have full marriage, but I think this is very positive.

The cabinet has until 28 December to pass the bill, otherwise experts believe a decision would likely be delayed until after the general election in February.

However, some members of the LGBTQI community have rejected the plans, saying they still fail to provide equal marriage rights.

Campaigner Nada Chaiyajit believes conservative elements have watered down the proposals.

There is no right to adoption for LGBTQI couples if they pass the law because society and the government believe that we are not ready to raise a child, she said.

We will stand tall and say no. We want the same rights, equal rights.

Getting to this point has not been easy, with previous discussions about changing the law having been interrupted by the military coup in 2014.

The current draft has been amended following discussions with politicians and religious leaders, but a recent public consultation found around 97% of respondents supported the proposals.

Nareeluc Pairchaiyapoom, director of the international human rights division at the Thai ministry of justice, has been working on the new draft for the past three years.

If the law gets passed, she believes full marriage equality could be secured in the next five years.

The rights may not be equal at this stage – we didn’t provide them the full set of rights like the heterosexual couples, she admitted.

We know that this is not an 100% perfect law yet but we will continue to work on this.

Conservative values and deep-rooted biases have stalled progress on gay rights across Asia.

Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei penalise same-sex activity, and Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBTQI communities.

In May 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court declared that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry and set a two-year deadline for current laws to be amended or new ones passed.

However, last month LGBTQI activists suffered a bitter blow when voters rejected legalising same-sex marriages in a series of referendums, instead backing the definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman.
(c) Sky News 2018: Thailand could become first southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex civil partnerships