Thailand's state film censors at the Ministry of Censorship Culture have banned a horror film centring on the life of a teenage monk after the movie
caused a stir among Buddhist hardliners who claimed that the film insults Buddhism.
Producers said in a tweet that it has to postpone screening the film Abat ('offense' in the Pali language, the language of Theravada Buddhism). The movie company stated:
The movie has been banned by the Film and Media Screening Committee (the committee of the Department of Cultural Promotion under the Ministry of Culture).
The Ministry informed the movie's producer and distributor that the film needs to be cut before it could go on screen.
On 23 September 2015, five Buddhist organisations, namely the Association of Scholars for Buddhism, the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand, the Buddhist Women's Association, the Network to Protect the Nation, Religion, and Monarchy, and the Buddhists
Network, issued a joint statement to the Ministry of Culture against the film. The statement which was submitted to Veera Rojpojanarat, the Minister of Culture, urged him to review the content of the film. It was also sent to the film producers asking
them to rethink whether the film is appropriate for screening in the country. In the statement, the five religious organisations wrote that the content of the movie shows disrespect towards Buddhism and Buddhist monks in the country and is valueless
The film is about a delinquent teenager who was forced by his parents to ordain as a Buddhist monk, but continues with his usual layman lifestyle while developing a sexual relationship with a young female protagonist, which later leads him to uncover the
dark secrets in his monastery. One of the controversial scenes in the film which shows the leading protagonist in a Buddhist monk's robe touching a woman, an action which is prohibited in the Buddhist monks' code of conduct
Surapot Taweesak, a Buddhist and philosophy scholar, however, shared his thoughts on the matter through Matichon News that there is nothing wrong with the film. He said that the call to ban the film shows a lack of tolerance and disrespect towards
freedom of expression, which ironically goes against the principles of freedom of thought in Buddhism itself.
Update: Passed 18 after cuts
17th October 2015. See article from bangkokpost.com
Arpat , the new name of the banned Thai film Arbat , passed the censorship board on Friday and was issued with an 18-plus rating after cuts. (Note, the actual name uses a Thai letter with no equivalence in English. It is half way between b
and p, hence there's a choice of which to use in transliteration to English)
Several 'sensitive' scenes have been cut from the original version, and a warning text appears at the start.
State censors who judged the film yesterday were different from those who banned the previous version of the film on Monday. The ban was imposed on the grounds that the movie would tarnish the image of Buddhism through telling a story of misbehaving
monks, (a sensitive issue in Thailand as there are plenty of misbehaving monks, many are just regular guys doing their duty of a short term stint as a monk, often under pressure from families).
The new version has been censored of a scene of a young monk kissing a girl, a monk drinking alcohol and a monk touching the head of a Buddha statue, among others.
A warning stressing the film is a work of fiction has been inserted at the start of the film.
Prachya admits that the title change, from Arbat to Arpat, may sound like a silly move , but he said it is a strategy to submit the new film for consideration while retaining the right to appeal for a new verdict of the original film:
We want to appeal for a permit of the original Arbat, but the process takes a long time, so we presented the re-edited version and called it Arpat instead.
Update: More on Thai film censorship
19th October 2015. See article from bangkokpost.com
The hullabaloo around the Thai film Arpat is the latest example of problems caused by what some people in
the film industry perceive as flaws in the Film and Video Act 2008.
Some of the controversial aspects of the law, which was passed by the coup-appointed National Legislative Assembly, include the composition of the censor committees, and the measure that allows a film to be banned for national security reasons. Also
criticised were a conservative interpretation of the rules, and most importantly strict state control over film, compared to lighter regulation of other cheaper and more accessible media such as television and print.
Many filmmakers believe the law, which introduced the rating system, poses many problems. Manit Sriwanichpoom, whose film Shakespeare Must Die was banned in 2012., said:
The law says the rating committee consists of four government officials and three representatives from the private sector, but what happens is that these three 'private representatives' are often those who are close to the bureaucrats, and they have to
be approved by the bureaucrats first. That means the state still controls the thinking and the judgement.
The first film banned under the new film law was Insect in the Backyard in 2010. It tells the story of a transgender father and his two children, one of them a male prostitute.
According to Kajornsak Putthanupap, who chaired the committee that banned the film Arpat, there are six rotating committees taking turns to watch films and give a rating. He said Arpat was initially banned because it might create unnecessary conflicts
in society if the committee had let it pass .
But for filmmakers, such thinking is unfair treatment to film, given the fact that content in other media, such as magazines or television, does not require state approval before its release. Pantham Thongsang, a film producer who has campaigned for a
fairer film law for the past 10 years, said:
Some committees rely purely on their imagination that if a film has been released, such and such a bad thing would happen. It's like you forbid someone from leaving the house because you imagine he might go out and kill someone.