Weird Thai Film Censorship

Here is an odd example of film censorship in Thailand.

Thai films generally are of two types: Ridiculously silly and incredibly violent, with the two being mixed together in the hokey ghost movies that Thai audiences just can’t seem to get enough of. Decent fare is few and far between. Even when they try to put out art-house-type movies, Thai filmmakers usually just can’t seem to get it right. Even my Thai wife cannot bear to watch Thai films, so I really don’t hold out much hope for this “Syndromes and a Century.”

Most of the cuts listed in the linked article above are being demanded by the Thai Medical Council, but the Censorship Board is also saying a scene of a monk strumming a guitar misrepresents Buddhism! Considering the really stupid, profane and orgiastically violent scenes that pass uncut with no problem, this is really very silly. The violent movies play throughout the country, but this film is scheduled to be shown only on two screens in Bangkok. I hope the filmmaker opts not to cut anything and just shows it outside of Thailand.

Censorship is mostly about the power of one group to control what another group can say and do. There’s nothing much more to it than that, almost all the “reasons” for censorship are just rationales with two exceptions:

  1. Movement of troops during wartime (might get our guys killed)
  2. Films with scenes which, by their very nature, involve nonconsensual sex or real violence against the actors involved. This would include child porn and scenes showing an actress who really doesnt consent to sex, being forced to have sex, or snuff films or even scenes where an actor really gets stabbed or shot.

You’re just saying that scenes that involve your particular cultural bugaboo (violence) should not be allowed while scenes involving someone else’s bugaboo ((Buddhism) should be allowed.

No, I’m saying only a loonie would think a monk strumming guitar misrepresents Buddhism. So do a lot of Thais; they’re scratching their heads on this one.

Did you actually read the story in the link above?? For instance, the parts that read:

"The move has stunned producers and local cinephiles and raised further questions about a moral crackdown under the country’s military-backed government.

"Weerasethakul, whose parents were both doctors, insists he won’t cut his film.

“I treat my works as my own sons or daughters,” Weerasethakul said. “If these offspring of mine cannot live in their own country for whatever reasons, let them be free. There is no reason to mutilate them from the fear of the system. Otherwise there is no reason for one to continue making art.”

"Critics have raised question marks over censorship decisions concerning other Thai movies including “The Bodyguard 2” and “Hor Taew Tak,” which employed crude language, expletives and rude behavior. The censors passed the films without cuts, and the movies were released on hundreds of screens. “Syndromes” is skedded for an outing on only two screens.

“This is beyond my expectation,” said the film’s co-producer, Pantham Thongsang. “The scenes they objected to are much less sensitive than scenes in many other Thai movies.”

There’s also the fact that most of the cuts are not about Buddhism at all. You really should read the article before replying. And I never said the violence should NOT be allowed; I was, like many Thais here now, pointing out the irony that they DID allow that without blinking while showing two doctors kissing i a locker room is forbidden, not because they’re kissing, but because they’re kissing in a hospital.

In all fairness, some censorship is about the all-too real appearance of (2). While I don’t agree with it, I couldn’t really blame some groups for wanting to censor, say, “Sin City” or the modern grotesqerie which horror films have become. That movie freaked me out, and I’m hardly a shrinking violent when it comes to movie violence.

“Sin City” is like “Bambi” compared with a Thai ghost story. I don’t care myself, just don’t go watch it if you don’t like it.

But the whole point of my post was that these cuts for “Syndromes” are just silly.

Here’s an Update below. BTW: Lest anyone else get the wrong idea, I assure you my whole purpose in starting this thread was to show an amusing slice of Thailand and NOT, as one poster has mistakenly thought, to express outrage at Thailand not following the dictates of “my” culture.

But as an FYI, I see now that the Thai filmmaker has a petition out:
Free Thai Cinema Movement Petition
Statement by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
with Bioscope, the Thai Film Foundation, Thai Film Director’s Association, and Alliances.

I am saddened by what has happened to my film. However, this is not the venue to try to make SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY shown in Thai theaters. It is not my intention to use this opportunity to promote my work. But, it is time to seriously think about what is going on with our censorship laws, so that the next generation of filmmakers will not face the same problems as us, and so that the Thai audiences can truly achieve a freedom of choice.

It is time we discuss whether all films, before being released, should be seen by the Buddhist council, doctors council, teachers council, labor council, the army, pet lovers group, taxi union, representatives from other foreign countries etc? Or, is it easier to turn our nation into a Fascist state so that we can live in harmony and don’t have to waste time talking about democracy?

The system of the Thai Board of Censors needs to be evaluated. Their members’ relevancy and efficiency needs to be questioned, and we should decide whether the laws should be changed.

I would like to ask you to reflect on the censorship practices in our country and to provide us with advice at

Later on, this Petition will be submitted to the Thai government. Your support will be a great contribution to our fight for one of our most basic rights - that of freedom.

I am grateful for your time and your participation. Thank you very much.

Warmest Regards,
Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Another update. This story appeared on Sunday. The main development seems to be that the Censor Board refuses to return the film print that was submitted to it, and they’re threatening to make the cuts themselves. What the ??? Do they think they’re going to release the movie into cinemas themselves?? The filmmaker is asking the police to help retrieve the print. This is getting strange even for Thailand.

Still, I don’t want to make it out that this is a huge controversy in Thailand. It’s not. Most have not even heard of the film or the censor Board’s demands, because it’s just not the sort of film that Thais want to see, which makes it even more strange about the cuts that are being demanded. This is just a slice of Thai eccentricity for your reading enjoyment.

And as for the one cut involving Buddhism: well, in the goofy comedies here, monks are shown engaging in all sorts of zany madcap mayhem, there’s even been midget – or dwarf or little people; whatever the PC term is today – monks doing all sorts of zany pratfalls, so suddenly a monk strumming a guitar throws Buddhism in a bad light???

“A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.” – Granville Hicks

I’m reviving this thread to point out the weirdness that’s common over here.

I mentioned the odd censorship case above. A serious film that I believe appeared at Cannes and has garnered worldwide critical acclaim was due to be shown on only two screens in Thailand, but the director pulled it after the Censorship Board demanded certain cuts be made. Among them, a male and female doctor sharing a kiss in a hospital and a group of doctors drinking whiskey in the break room of the hospital; the Thai Medical Board had complained these scenes harmed the image of the medical profession.

Just opened on 300 screens across Thailand, we now have a movie called Sick Nurses. It’s about a doctor and 7 sexy-looking nurses who operate a body-parts ring. He’s screwing all 7 of them. Six of the nurses kill one, and she returns to kill all the others in various grisly manners. The most shocking – or so I hear; I don’t watch this trash – is by forcing one to chew on a mouthful of scalpel blades. Apparently, the lower half of her face ends up dropping off, it’s cut up so bad. No censorship at all with this one, and since there’s no rating system in Thailand, the movie’s open to all ages. Horror flicks are a big-ticket item here. Many – not only in the film industry, but even regular Thais, who are not known for their logic – are questioning why the innocuous scenes in the other film created outrage among Thailand’s Medical Board, but not a peep about this one.

One answer is that despite the fact that the doctor in the film is screwing all 7 nurses – in the hospital, too; I hear those are some pretty erotic scenes – he’s a closet gay, as it comes out in the movie. Just about anything goes in films here if the villain is gay. I’m not being facetious, that’s really true. Thai culture is very accepting of gays, but in movies, if the villain is gay, he’s allowed to get away with stuff a heterosexual villain would never be allowed to do.

The newspaper ad for the movie is pretty good. An erotic-looking nurse holding a hypodermic needle next to the words, “Come see their sexy death.”

At least it’s never boring here. :smiley: