Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Last-ditch effort by the Free Thai Cinema movement

Kong Rithdee, writing for Variety, seems to be the only journalist in the Thai English-language press relentlessly tracking the moves by the military-installed National Legislative Assembly to pass a restrictive ratings law, which would give the government the power to ban a Thai film from being shown anywhere in the world, if they don't agree with it.

The draft Thai Film and Video Act comes before the NLA tomorrow. Members of the Free Thai Cinema movement, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Wisit Sasanatieng as well as artists, media reform activists and the Thai Film Foundation, have submitted an open letter to the sub-committee that is debating the law.

The Free Thai Cinema Movement also plans a demonstration in front of Parliament tomorrow.

It's a race for freedom, with the Free Thai Cinema Movement in a last-ditch attempt to halt a desperation power grab by the conservatives who control the Ministry of Culture to pass a law before the December 23 election.

The act would create a ratings system, which might seem like a positive step for Thailand, which still adheres to a 1930 censorship law. But the ratings system is even more restrictive, with an R-25 rating, restricting some films only to viewers 25 years and older. Then there is the "rated X" category, under which films would be banned if they are deemed to "impact sovereignty, religion, and the monarchy" of Thailand.

Just what constitutes impact? The wording is overly broad. Filmmakers fear it will simply be used as a political tool by politicians and police to ban films they don't agree with or understand.

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