This story has received a surprising amount of world attention. I found it on all the major wire services and in newspapers as far away as Florida. Most reports mistakenly link the episode to the censorship controls introduced by the military CNS. In fact, this has nothing to do with the CNS. It is, frankly, more sinister than that.
You may have read a report I posted a few weeks ago about the Young Thai Artists Awards 2006. In that post I suggested that the cultural “old guard” of Thailand were stifling artistic innovation and expression, forcing young artists to conform to rigid and archaic “rules” in order to compete for some very valuable awards.
Now we see evidence of the same thing happening within the Ministry of Culture. Whatever the facts about the “khon” are — and I certainly don’t pretend to hav any knowledge of the issue — those “facts” appear to be, at best, ambiguous. Nevertheless, the Ministry chose to demand alterations to the opera as a condition of allowing it to be performed.
Personally, and only personally, I have some issues with the concept of an opera or any other artistic production requiring a government approved license. Censorship, in some circumstances, is necessary and right. No one would argue, for example, that a live production of people having sex together is appropriate public entertainment…….well except in the upper floors of Patpong bars perhaps! Are we sensing some double-standards here?
Most countries quite rightly issue ratings for movies, ranging from parental guidance to “Adult only”. Some movies are denied any classification and therefore are available for show only in private clubs. Usually, however, these ratings are not issued by governments themselves but by independent agencies appointed by government. I accept that government can influence an agency but it does not usually have enforcement power.
In Thailand it appears that the Ministry of Culture (an Orwellian title if there ever was one) has absolute power as to what may or may not be seen.