Stifling creative talents

31 10 2009

Kong Rithdee, who writes about interesting movies and provides useful insights regarding popular culture in the Bangkok Post has a column that deserves to be read (Bangkok Post, 31 October 2009: “Creativity that leaves one agog”).

Kong points out that the Democrat Party-led government has earmarked “creative industries” for special attention, even allocating 5 billion baht to develop the necessary human resources and infrastructure. Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot, has trumpeted taht Thailand will become “the hub of creative industry in Asean.” He also makes the astounding claim that this industry will almost double in size, “from 12 to 20% of GNP by 2012.”

Kong says: “Great. It will be a lavish buffet table.” But then he makes an even more important point. This government is doing all it can to stifle creative talent. The really creative people, Kong says, are “continually persecuted by the conservative cultural agencies.” He asks: “how can we foster the creative atmosphere amid primitive-minded censorship? Don’t the two concepts cancel each other out?” PPT joins the chorus in answering affirmitively.

As Kong goes on to explain, “Frighteningly, it’s political content that pricks the censors even more than iced nipples, proving that the concept of critical art is not permitted here in this [supposedly] awesomely creative land.” He provides examples.

The first is a “new  Thai horror film Haunted Universities … [that] was ordered to cut two shots that show a soldier shooting at university students in an event that refers to the Oct 14 uprising, which left the university haunted.”  Why were these scenes ordered cut? It seems the snippers and protectors at the Culture Ministry such scenes obviously threatened “national security.”

The second example is from just a couple of days ago, when the film This Area Is Under Quarantine was banned. The reason for its banning is because it included “footage of the Tak Bai incident.” As Kong points out, “this footage, however, has been available … everywhere in this country for years.”

To explain just how silly all this has become, Kong points out that: “if you’re making a video of your wedding, according to the new law you have to submit it to the ratings board first! Likewise, films made at film schools to be shown for the instructors to grade will, officially, have to go through the censors, too. That’s the most creative idea we’ve heard in this country, and no doubt we’ll lead Southeast Asia in our creative glory very, very soon.”

Kong certainly doesn’t mention it, but when PPT looks at what this government does promote as acceptable art we see royal “art” that is mostly talentless. We have the vainglorious Princess Ubol Ratana being promoted as a movie talent, polymath princess Sirivannavari Nariratana portrayed as a designer and art talent, and the metropolitan art center, called the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, being dominated by displays of royal dross. Only art that is royal or lauds things royal seems to count.

This kind of censorship is silly but it is also extremely dangerous. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government have engaged in a broad campaign for the control of the media and in doing so they show themselves to be authoritarian. This is no campaign with a political motive born of the moment; rather, this is at the heart of this government’s political strategy and repression is continually used to prevent broad debate.


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3 responses

1 11 2009
4 04 2012
The politics of censorship « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] the auspices of the Creative Thailand Project by the previous (Abhisit Vejajiva) government in 2010, but was only recently completed and […]

4 04 2012
The politics of censorship « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] the auspices of the Creative Thailand Project by the previous (Abhisit Vejajiva) government in 2010, but was only recently completed and […]




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