A television commercial that shows news footage from the red-shirt political protests at the Rajprasong Intersection and the May 19 military crackdown and arson attacks has been banned in Thailand.
The commercial, We're Sorry, Thailand (ขอโทษประเทศไทย, Kor Thod... Pra Thet Thai) is by a media consortium called Positive Strength to Change Thailand.
It was banned by the Television Station Joint censorship Committee, which deemed the message and pictures too extreme, and believed there was a risk of defamation, The Nation reports.
But it can still be viewed on YouTube. And Thai101 has provided an English-subtitled and annotated version. It's embedded above.
The commercial asks rhetorical questions: "Have we done something wrong? Have we been too violent? Have we done our duty? Have we thought of the public? Have we cheated? Have we taken advantage? Have we edified the public? Have we degraded ourselves? Have we cared more about money than what's right? Have we just waited around for help?"
The commercial also shows a clip from a nightly soap opera, of two women fighting, as well as the yellow-shirt political protesters.
And then it switches to idyllic scenes of Thai culture – Buddhist temples, monks making the morning alms rounds, a rice farmer with his water buffalo and citizens reading in the library.
The score is a solo piano rendition of "Auld Lang Syne".
"If someone is to blame, that someone is all of us. We're sorry, Thailand. And if these problems are to be fixed, then it is us Thais who must stand up and fix them. Let's engrave these losses in our hearts and turn them into strength."
Prime Minister's Office Minister Ong-art Klampaiboon denied his office was responsible for the the ban, and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he thought the commercial was okay and saw no reason for it to be banned, but told Thai Rath, "I won't intervene".
Another irony is that the Center for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), the body keeping order under the State of Emergency, has the video on its website.
As Veen_NT has pointed out, the censorship of such seemingly innocuous images is similar to the censorship of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film, Syndromes and a Century. In that case, censors deemed six scenes inappropriate, including a monk strumming a guitar, monks playing with a flying saucer and doctors drinking whisky in the hospital.
These are scenes that contain social commentary, reflections on contemporary Thai society, which were deemed inappropriate and disrespectful of various institutions.
In the case of the TV commercial, the depictions of violence are shown nightly on television, in soap operas and action movies. But because the footage is real, and is framed as social commentary, the cultural minders deem them inappropriate.
The censorship is an attempted whitewash of the issue, which backfires because of the Streisand effect, which has caused more people to view the video and comment on it than if it hadn't been banned.
Update: Of course the ad itself is a whitewash, as On_Off_Course comments on Twitter. Meanwhile, the censorship committee has called a special meeting.
Update 2: The censors explain, according to The Nation:
Some parts of the commercial could be the basis for legal action by a third party, while some others could be in violation of other people's rights and freedom, the committee said in a statement.
To allow the commercial on air, the panel has ordered that six scenes of the 150-second commercial, involving images deemed legally and morally improper such as the burning of buildings, soldiers pointing guns, nudity, monks being arrested and violent protests, be taken out.
"The committee's consideration of the radio and television commercials are based on the opinions and concerns of all parts of society. However, its mission is to create professional standards on the basis of creativity, social responsibility and peace of the people and the country," the statement said