Hong Kong's 3D Erotic comedy Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy has opened in Thailand after cuts from the Film Board's censorship committee, even with an age rating of 20+.
With this rating, filmgoers should have their ID cards ready to show in case they're asked. The Thai cut of
Sex and Zen runs for 110 minutes, 3 minutes shorter than the original. Three scenes have been cut: a female seducing a monk and two sadistic rape scenes.
The director's cut runs 129 minutes, Hong Kong's version is 118 minutes and the international cut for censorial challenged countries is 113 minutes. Thailand and Singapore have each snipped the film down to 110 minutes but Thailand's version still
allows nude scenes while Singapore's cut has removed some sex scenes and all scenes showing the monk and the woman.
Thailand has ordered a ban on foreign tourists having religious images tattooed on their bodies while visiting the kingdom, official media reported.
Tattoos with images such as of the Buddha may offend Thai people, Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat was quoted as telling reporters.
He said his ministry had asked regional governors, particularly in tourist hotspots, to inspect tattoo studios and ask them not to use religious patterns, according to the state-run National News Bureau. He said he would push for a law banning
people from etching sacred images onto their skin.
Tattooed foot in mouth
At an interview with Pattaya Daily News reporter, Minister Nipit denied making any statements against tourists with religious tattoos. He clarified that tourists with religious tattoos will not be prohibited from entering Thailand.
[Even though he earlier claimed that such images offended Thai people?]
The warning is directed at those tattoo shops that allow etching sacred images onto tourists' bodies especially on the lower body parts such as ankles, Minister Nipit said. He re-emphasised that it was a misunderstanding by foreign Media that
Thailand would do a body check on tourists while visiting the kingdom.
Opposition is building to the Culture Ministry's plan to impose restrictions on the use of Buddha images and religious
motifs for commercial purposes.
Culture Minister Niphit Intharasombat said this week he had instructed provincial governors, especially those in tourist destinations, to crack down on the improper use of Buddha images and religious motifs. Niphit said the ministry would
publish guidelines on the acceptable use of Buddha images and religious items for business operators and tourists.
The guidelines will give advice on how to portray or treat Buddha images, teachings, pictures and photos. They will also urge respectful handling of monks' garb and items and temples' important features. People are discouraged from dressing like
monks, or portraying monks in an unfavourable light.
Tattoo artists, business operators and movie makers are unhappy about the restrictions. Pawat Pawangkasiri, director of Nak Prok (In the Shadow of Naga) , a film about bandits who disguise themselves as monks, said the guidelines seem vague
and could threaten freedom of expression.
The Culture Ministry is asking tattoo artists to stick to offering religious tattoos above the waist, as it believes such sacred imagery, even when displayed on the flesh, should be treated with respect.
The Bangkok Post asked tattoo artists what they think of the proposed ban.
Som, who works at Fine Art and Tattoo, a tattoo parlour off Patpong Road, said she agrees with the proposed ban. Many foreigners don't understand the symbols, and they want a Ganesh below the waist, like on the hip or ankle.
She said tattoo artists feel spirits inhabit them as they work, so at her shop they agreed not to tattoo designs with religious significance, which might skew the symbiosis they need to work. She said they worried about bad karma: The khru, the
protector of your art, will be upset and punish you. Even for Buddhists, sacred images below the waist are really bad. It's the same as putting a Buddha statue in a nightclub or toilet. It's done without thinking.
Thon, a tattoo artist of 14 years whose Y2J parlour lies on Patpong 2 Road, believes a ban on religious imagery would be wrong. While he agrees that religious imagery shouldn't be tattooed below the waist, he doesn't think the government should
have any say in what is ultimately a personal decision. I also worship my khru, and I've never drawn religious tattoos on lower body parts, he said.
Thailand's Election Commission (EC) authorities have banned discussion of the monarchy in campaigning for the first
national election since the political violence erupted in 2010.
The poll's body has not revealed the details of the new rules, which were announced at a meeting with political representatives.
The EC will discuss details of the ban later, said Apichart Sukananond, the body's chairman, suggesting that parties who disobey the rules may be dissolved and their leaders may be banned for five years.
Debate about the role of the monarchy is a taboo in Thailand as the country prepares its national election in early July.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva supported the ban stating that the monarchy was above politics and conflicts , while the main opposition party Puea thai pledged to respect the rules.
Thai Government officers have raided 13 community radio stations in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces which have been accused of
broadcasting a speech allegedly containing comments offensive to the monarchy.
A joint task force made up of officers from the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Crime Suppression Division as well as local police carried court
warrants to the community radio stations and seized their equipment.
Police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Prawuth Thawornsiri said Isoc had ordered police to take legal action against community radio stations which had broadcast a controversial April 10 speech made by Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Prompan, since he is facing
lese majeste charges as a result.
The raids included two radio stations in Pathum Thani province belonging to the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
The two were a 105.40 MHz channel in tambon Khu Khot and the 96.35 MHz Red Skills station in tambon Lat Sawai.
Police detained DJ Lucky , chief of the first radio station, and confiscated transmitters, computers and the antennas from both channels.
About 300 red shirts gathered at the Red Skills station in an attempt to prevent the police from taking away the equipment. Police negotiated with the protesters and took DJ Kom , the station head, for questioning at Khu Khot police
Both detainees were later released on bail of 75,000 baht each.
Misreable Bangrak District Office director Surakiat Limcharern has lodged a complaint with police over topless
female Songkran revellers whose sexy dancing near Silom Road was recorded and posted on the Internet.
It hurts the image of Thailand, in particular Silom, he ludicrously claimed: It distorts Songkran culture too. Close examination showed the topless revellers were young, so young that it dismissed my initial assumption that they might
have been workers in the redlight zone of Patpong.
Lodging his complaint at the Yannawa Police Station, Surakiat urged police to track down the teenagers who he claimed carried out obscene acts in public places.
Miserable National Police Commissioner General Wichien Pojphosri vowed action against both the topless revellers and their cheering crowds.
Miserable Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat, meanwhile, wanted action taken against those lending loudspeakers and stereo systems for the topless dancing: Apart from being fined, the topless girls should be required to do some cultural work.
For example, they should be made to read books about the Songkran Festival for young students to listen to as part of the punishment .
Video clips showing the topless Songkran revellers were posted on the Internet on Saturday, provoking a nutter 'outcry'.
Culture Watch Centre director Ladda Tangsupachai has disclosed that Nipit also instructed her to officially ask the National Police Office and the ICT Ministry to ban the video clips on the Internet.
In Phichit, two transvestites were fined yesterday for exposing their breasts during the Songkran celebrations.
In Chon Buri, Pattaya City's councillor Rattanachai Suttidechanai said all entertainment venues were told not to stage pornographic shows.
Update: Oops, Thai Minstry caught 'destroying the image' of Thailand
Image rapidly deleted from the
Thai Ministry of Culture website
lest they 'destroy the image of Thailand' again!
The buzz in Thailand in the past week (before the renewed border fighting with Cambodian troops) was the scandal caused by the topless teen dancers during the Songkran Water Fighting Festival.
The photos and videos of the three girls dancing bare breasted in Silom, Bangkok immediately went viral and generated intense debates on Thai culture and morality. The girls were slapped with a 500 Baht ($17) fine while the person who uploaded the
video received a 100,000 Baht ($3,320) fine and a possible prison term for up to five years in violation of the Computer Crimes Act.
The Thai Ministry of Culture ludicrously condemned the girls for 'destroying the image' of Thailand.
But embarrassingly, netizens spotted that very same accusatory ministry were themselves 'destroying the image' of Thailand.
The image [right] of three topless topless women enjoying Songkran was featured on its website and was mysteriously removed when spotted immediately after the Songkran topless dancing incident.
The censored image was of the Nang Songkran (Thai Goddesses of Songkran) painting by Sompop Budtarad.
Thai Connoisseur observes that the three teenagers were merely embracing the more traditional, and somewhat forgotten aspects of Songkran:
...three young Thai ladies embracing the more traditional, and somewhat forgotten aspects of Songkran, by dancing in much the same way as their great grandmothers would have done back in the days of Siam. In other words,
bare breasted! Who can blame them? I think it is a good thing for the young people to revive forgotten traditions of one's ancestors.
Harrison George, writing for Prachatai, comments on the hypocrisy of the authorities
Where the young women went wrong was doing it for free. Theirs was an economic sin, not a moral one. If they had done the same thing in a bar a few hundred yards away, they would never have been bothered by the law. And got
paid for it.
A bill meant to replace Thailand's repressive Computer Crime Act of 2007 was put on hold by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on
19 April 2011 amidst strong criticism, media reports said.
The Nation quoted the prime minister as saying that the draft law, sponsored by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), needs further review.
Groups such as the Thai Netizen Network, iLaw and the Network of Human Rights Law earlier submitted a letter to Abhisit to express their opposition to the draft law which they claimed is worse than the current one.
The Thai Netizen Network said that the amended law does not address old problems but adds more new ones, which will have a wider impact on civil liberty and press freedom. An Associated Press report quoted Sarinee Achavanunkul, committee member:
If the law is passed, fewer people would want to work as webmasters and administrators due to the high burden of liabilities, and Thailand's information technology industry will suffer.
Paiboon Amornpinyokiat, an IT law expert, added that under this proposed law, more people, besides those working with Internet service providers, web hosting and mobile phone companies, could be easily caught in a dragnet, including ordinary
people who have Facebook and Twitter accounts, owing to vague technical terms.
The Nation said that one of the main concerns is the draft law's provision on the setting up of a new commission, to be called the Committee to Prevent and Suppress Computer Crimes, made up of representatives from security organizations.
According to iLaw manager Orapin Yingyongphatthana, the commission will have the power to request computer data.
Paiboon said that another problematic provision of the draft law is Article 16 which could penalize anyone who downloads audio or video files (songs and films), even for fair use (this right is protected under anti-piracy laws). The article states
anyone who illegally copies other computer information into his or her own system that may cause damage to others faces up to five year's imprisonment or a fine of THB50,000 (USD1,670) and/or both.
Article 24 used the euphemistic sounding: information that is inconsistent with the fact in an offense of undermining national security or causing panic. This charge carries a five-year prison term or a fine of up to THB500,000 (USD16,700)
and/or both. According to IT lawyer Paiboon, any media outlet that posts information such as clips from YouTube or data from Wikileak, which may not yet be 100-percent verified, as part of its news story may be charged under this article.
Article 26 states that anyone who posts online any personal information, or any information that may cause damage to a person or his or her reputation, cause the person to be insulted, hated, or shamed, or cause anyone to believe that such
information is true, is punishable for up to five years of imprisonment or face a fine up to THB500,000 (USD16,700) and/or both.
Does anyone else feel that television censorship has become very annoying these days?
I can understand when they blur the image of a cigarette, a gun or a knife when someone is holding it. But football highlights? Since there is often a beer commercial sign behind the goal, the image is blurred and you can't
see how and when the ball went in, or how the goalkeeper reacted.
In one cooking show they even blurred a knife when the chef was scoring a fish or slicing spare ribs. Cooking wine bottles are also blurred.
In a show about dairy farming, you guessed it, they blurred the cows' nipples!
But when it comes to night-time melodramas, you are allowed to watch eye-gouging, cursing, women pulling each other's hair and slapping each other back and forth. Whack! Whack! Whack! On some evening news programmes, they
don't hesitate to show the corpses of flood victims or a murdered person whose body has been mutilated and beheaded.
Despite being Thai, sometimes I get frustrated trying to make sense out of this stuff.
Reporters Without Borders has carried out a new survey of online freedom of expression for World Day Against Cyber-Censorship on 12 March.
One in three of the world's Internet users does not have access to an unrestricted Internet, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard said. Around 60 countries censor the Internet to varying degrees and harass
netizens. At least 119 people are currently in prison just for using the Internet to express their views freely. These are disturbing figures.
Reporters Without Borders is releasing its annual report on the state of online freedom of expression in the 10 countries it has identified as Enemies of the Internet and the 16 countries it is keeping under surveillance because of their
questionable Internet policies.
Tunisia and Egypt have been removed from the list of Enemies of the Internet following the fall of their governments, Julliard added. These countries nonetheless remain under surveillance, as does Libya. The gains of these revolutions must be
consolidated and the new freedoms must be guaranteed. We have also placed three democracies -- Australia, South Korea and France -- under surveillance because of various measures they have taken that could have negative consequences for online free
expression and Internet access.
Countries under surveillance
United Arab Emirates
Two United Special Rapporteurs have sent Thailand a letter of allegation concerning the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the webmaster on trial in Bangkok for charges of lese-majesty and computer crime.
According to the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekkaggya in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, she sent the letter together with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, on October 1, 2010.
The February 28 report quotes a reply from the government of Thailand that the case was brought on the basis that views that are disrespectful of the monarchy, or advocate hatred or hostile feelings towards this important national institution, or
those which incite hatred or violence are generally unacceptable in the Thai society .
In a second letter sent in February, the government asked the U.N. rights experts not to prejudge the decision of the court hearing the case.
The police charged Chiranuch not because of anything that she did or said herself but for comments posted on her independent news website, Prachatai, by users. She has been held criminally liable as the site administrator. The Bangkok-based Internet news
site has since been forced to close its web board because of fears that it or its users could be subject to further criminal actions.
Wong Kai Shing, executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, welcomed the U.N. experts' intervention and said that it showed that the case is attracting more and more interest globally, because people around the world are concerned about the
use of Thailand's draconian lese-majesty and computer crime laws to stifle legitimate debate.
At a time that the representative of Thailand to the Human Rights Council is holding the council's presidency, it is highly embarrassing that his government is prosecuting someone for speech and computer offences that she did not
The case cannot in any way be justified in terms of international law. The AHRC also completely rejects the government's arguments that it can be justified on particular cultural or national grounds.
If, to a degree, art manifests the temperament of society, the depiction of monks in films has increasingly shown a complicated perception of Thais towards the institution once untouchable. Likewise, the unpredictable decisions of the censors
highlights an even more complicated dynamics between art and Buddhism --- one of the pillars of the nation that cannot be undermined.
If a film has a moral lesson, we won't object to it, says Dr Amnaj Buasiri, director of the Sangha Supreme Council. Monks can be portrayed as funny, but if it's too disrespectful, we'll ask the director to cut certain things. In general we look
at the whole film and see if it means to spread a good message or not.
Last year the envelope was pushed: the film Nak Prok (In the Shadow of Naga) featured a contentious setup in which a gang of robbers disguised themselves as monks and ran the temple as if it was a mafia den. The film, almost miraculously, passed
the censors without a cut --- the Sangha Supreme Council contended that the bad guys are fake monks, not real ones. It had a quibble, though, over a scene showing a (real) monk tattooing a man, and the film was required to add a warning caption that such
practice is against the monkhood's rules.
Still, the lenient attitude towards Nak Prok was a stark contrast to the highprofile ruckus in 2007 when the censorship board demanded an innocuous scene of a monk strumming a guitar and two monks playing with a radiocontrolled toy be axed from
the award winning film Syndromes and a Century . When the director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, refused to comply, a longrunning protest from the film community and media experts took place. That case exemplified how an attempt to tease and portray
monks based on reality is an issue of dire sensitivity, if not exactly a taboo.
In Mindfulness and Murder , slated for release in April, a monk becomes a homicide detective when a dead body turns up in his temple. It transpires that the monk is an ex-cop; so now he preaches impermanence as well as forensic investigation. Last
year, in Apichatpong's Cannes-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives , a young monk sneaks out of his quarters, takes a shower, changes into layman's clothes, and ends up at a karaoke joint in one of the year's most mind-warping
cinematic melancholia. Observers had expected a ballyhoo, yet the film passed the rating committee without any fuss.
Monking around, it seems, remains an act of tiptoeing a thin line.
The trial has started of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, executive director of the Thailand-based independent news Web site Prachatai. She stands accused of 10 different violations of the country's draconian 2007 Computer Crime Act (CCA), each of which carries a
maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The case centers on comments posted by users of a Prachatai Web board that authorities have charged were defamatory of the Thai monarchy--a criminal offense under Thai law. Chiranuch has been charged under the CCA's Section 15, which pertains to the
liability of online intermediaries, including Internet service providers (ISPs) and webmasters.
Prosecution witness Aree Jivorarak, head of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology's (MICT) said in his testimony that when his office brought the comments to Chiranuch's attention she immediately deleted them in her capacity as
the Web board's moderator.
Chiranuch told CPJ that Prachatai's online forums received thousands of comments daily in 2008--when the alleged CCA violations occurred--and that it was impossible to police instantly every comment that was posted.
Defense witnesses are expected to argue in upcoming hearings that the CCA's Section 15 is out of step with laws governing intermediary liability in many Western countries and that the Thai law applies unreasonable obligations to webmasters.