Is censorship right?

Well so what you might say. This is just one obscure opera. Does anyone really care? To which I would reply that we ought to care. This is not the first example of Thai government censorship.

Many of us are aware of books about His Majesty the King being available for sale outside Thailand but unavailable here. A number of books about the Bangkok and Pattaya bar scene have also been banned. Unofficial censorship, in the form of threats and bribes, was rife in the latter years of the Thaksin administration.


The problem is less censorship itself, rather the means by which censorship is enforced. There appear to be no rules, no controls and no oversight. Arbitrary is the word that comes into my mind.

Ayodhya will soon be performed in the USA, in its uncensored form and, when it does so, comparison is bound to be made with the heavy handed actions of the Thai government.

So where does it end? Here, and also above, you see three examples of Thai contemporary art. The first is a nude. The second is a series of mutilated penises. The third uses arguably inappropriate language, the word “arguably” being key.

Who determines the argument and what is their accountability?

It is well known that many within government and the Thai cultural elite disapprove of contemporary art, preferring Thailand to be known for its paintings of the Buddha and the agricultural economy.

Fine. I have no problem with disapproval, much though I disagree with it. I do have a problem, however, when disapproval turns into censorship, whether official or unofficial.


I am going to exaggerate to make my point clearer. On your right you see a picture of some rather elegant guy. I can’t imagine who he might be. As you will observe, this individual is smoking a cigarette. Advertising of cigarettes in Thailand has been banned for years, and quite rightly so. As of a few months ago, retail outlets are not even permitted to display cigarette packs (a little extreme and silly I have to say).

So is this photograph advertising cigarettes or smoking? I suppose some people might argue so but general common sense would say that this is in no way a piece of advertising. Yet, theoretically, the Thai authorities could demand that I remove the photograph from this site. Theoretically again I could have this site removed from view by the authorities because it contains allegedly sexual content.

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