(The following blog/article was published just yesterday in The Nation newspaper. Below however, is the original un-edited (uncensored!) submission
(CENSORED! Banned in Thailand: Deleted scene from the movie ‘Syndromes and a Century’)
Thailand, famed for its magical temples, white sandy beaches, spicy papaya salad and notorious airport taxi drivers is also creating a huge name for itself in the field of censorship. Without a doubt, most folk must have been completely bewildered at times, at just what can and can not be shown on Thai television, movies and in magazines. Any foreign male tourist may have noticed that he can not pick up a copy of some lusty lewd pornographic magazine in a bookstore, but he can however, see the real thing live in action if he pops into a couple of certain infamous lanes on Sukhumvit and Silom Roads. Does that mean therefore that nude shows are socially acceptable but nude pictures are not?
One movie which has definitely created a lot of controversy recently is the award winning Syndromes and a Century which had four scenes cut; including one of a funky modern-age monk strumming his guitar like Eric Clapton and another flying a toy UFO. According to the ever wise golden-oldie censor crew, the likes of monks ought only to be portrayed in a bright light. All right, fair enough, but how come sordid stories accompanied by sensational photographs of monks getting caught smooching lady disciples, watching dirty movies, drinking alcohol and knocking off drugs are allowed to make headline news in the Thai Press!? Other folk to be held only in high esteem within society and not to be portrayed in any negative way are doctors; scenes censored in the above movie were of male ones chugging whiskey, kissing and getting an erection in public. Yet however, I can perfectly recall a movie from yesteryear which was based on the true-life story of a doctor killing his wife! Does that mean therefore that a doctor killing his wives is socially acceptable but drinking whiskey and getting randy is not?
(CENSORED! No monk is allowed to be depicted in this way. A pic like this would be automatically banned by Thailand’s media censors)
In comparison however, the censors over the years, have never bothered to complain much about on-screen violence. Let’s have a look at the typical weekend routine of Mr Bank a Grade 4 TV fan; after taking his morning shower he can tune into some video-nasty action thriller at 9 o’clock in the morning. After lunch and a quick nap, he can sit back and enjoy a good old-fashioned horror movie. Even though the special-effects maybe completely corny in the eyes of a sane adult, Mr Bank will be on the edge of seat, half petrified. Next, after dinner and a game of ping-pong on the veranda, he can be awed at some of the violent scenes on Thai TV soap operas. So, a monk playing with a toy UFO is not allowed to be shown to Mr Bank but he can though, be stunned at sizzling scenes of a drunkard father beating his teenage daughter with his leather belt, a delinquent divorcee shoving a gun in her ex-lover’s head and even a son socking his mother is in the eye. Does that mean therefore that a man beating up his wife and daughter is socially acceptable but for two doctors to kiss is not?
According to the censors, dreaded drinking and smoking are awful things which ought never to be screened, yet showing real dead bodies is perfectly all right. Pick up a copy of a Thai newspaper and virtually everyday there is at least one dead body stuck on the front page with gory headlines along the lines of ‘Two year old mutilated by junkie mother’ or ‘Gay heart-broken Farang jumps from 23rd floor in Pattaya’. The censors have done their homework, just a little though, and the dead body is slightly blurred out. The same scenario goes on, on the TV news too, reports of murders or suicides – are accompanied by their cameramen zooming in on the battered corpse. Again, the picture is slightly fazed-out but even a four year-old knows what it is all about, just the same as blurring out scenes of gangsters puffing away on huge cigars in some Hong Kong movie. Other times however, they don’t bother censoring any corpse scene at all, as it’s just too much hassle, especially when there are just too many dead bodies, like in a horrific bus crash. News of the Tsunami was by far the worst I have ever seen in Thailand; live reports with bodies hanging from trees and dangling from roofs used as background. Does that mean therefore that showing dead bodies to youngsters is socially acceptable but pictures of smoking are not?
(UNCENSORED! Pornographic magazines are illegal but nevermind there are lots of adverts for naughty mobile phone clips)
Thailand is not exactly famed for its smart criminals, who after robbing a bank decided to flee….home, instead of into the jungle. But even he, the dumbest of the lot, can get plenty of ideas for criminal adventures by reading a copy of his local newspaper. He might simply pick the thing up and be thrilled to see sensational headlines along the lines of ‘Home of superstar actress burgled’. Next, while reading the inside story, he is delighted at such detailed journalism, ‘The house of Mrs Somtum, located at 34/75 Soi Namprik, Bang Pa Prat road was full of valuables at the time including a set of very rare Burmese Rubies, Diamond necklaces and antique gold cutlery, fortunately however, the burglar could not find them’. Licking his lips at such revelation he writes it all down in his little secret diary.
As you will know, in reality in Thailand, once you are arrested you are guilty until proven innocent and the Thai press enjoys nothing more than releasing all of the suspect’s personal data. Besides every address they can muster up, they also print his mother’s name, brother’s girlfriend’s name, auntie’s name, employer’s name and even his dog’s name. The same goes for female grade seven students who have been the victims of their child molesting math teacher. Even though the name of the victim’s school is not allowed to be mentioned, they can write however ‘The pretty 12 year old attends a very well known all girls’ school in Dishy district, Nonthaburi province, located just 200 metres north of the boat pier’.
According to the censors, drinking is an awful sin and ought not to be promoted in any way. On the other hand however, let us take a look at gambling. Have a stroll around your neighborhood on any Saturday evening and you will be able to witness scores of male adults studying very closely the latest edition of some ‘soccer’ magazine. If you thought they were admiring some photo of Ronaldo or Rooney then you are wrong, they are indeed studying the latest betting scores for the Man U Chelsea match. And every publication is full front to back with up-to-date odds! Does that mean however that promoting illegal gambling is socially acceptable but as for alcohol it is not?
(UNCENSORED!)A saucy monk caught in the act. From the front page of Thailand’s leading newspaper: The Thai Rath)
Sadly, because of TV censoring, any randy man with a fetish for skimpy bikinis or uniforms isn’t going to get much opportunity to see his favorite costume being worn provocatively on-screen. Never-mind though, he can simply purchase any soccer, gossip-star or fun club magazine to find it full of adverts for virtually pornographic mobile wall-papers of naughty looking women. Perhaps the censors with their failing eye-sight haven’t noticed too, that along with the wall-papers that can easily be downloaded, there are vivid uncensored video clips of saucy seductive nurses, college girls and secretaries doing something with the buttons of their blouses and bottoms of their skirts which they ought not too.
Quite obviously, current media censorship is full of inconsistencies and double standards. The authorities in-charge, ought to seriously sit down and realize that most of the adult population does not like to be treated like children. If they wish to continue with censoring, then it is advised that they get out some pen and paper and write up some respectable standards!
And finally, I would like to recommend that the censors clampdown on all those corny completely exaggerated advertisements for miracle washing-up powders, arm-pit whitening lotions and dieting therapies.