Monday, February 22, 2010

Isn't there enough comedy in the military?

Phranakorn Film has a new comedy opening this week, Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk (กองพันครึกครื้น ท.ทหารคึกคัก), which comes at a time when the Thai military is already looking quite foolish for its reliance on a "bomb detector" that has been thoroughly debunked.

Directed by comedian Note Chern-yim, who also plays a loud-mouthed drill instructor, the slapstick-heavy Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk is about four young men who pull the unlucky red slip in the draft drawing. They are packed off to a training camp at Kanchanaburi, where they catch the eyes of local ladies. And I'm not certain, but it appears that one of the soldiers is not even interested in women. According to Film Business Asia, the international English title is Jolly Rangers, but I doubt anyone will ever come to know Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk by that title.

The comedy comes at a time when the Thai military and other state security agencies have been the butt of jokes for their reliance on the GT200, an expensive device that is purported to "detect" explosives, drugs or whatever contraband soldiers, policemen or customs officers might be looking for.

Britain has banned the export of the devices -- essentially "an empty plastic case" and "the equivalent of a hazel twig divining rod" -- but too late for Thailand's armed forces and security agencies to procure hundreds of them at prices of around 1 million baht apiece. Such a waste.

In response to the criticism of the "hoax" device by academics, the Science Ministry ran tests, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declaring that dogs can do a better job of detecting bombs. He's politely asked the military to stop using them, pretty please. But the generals have defended the use of the GT200 -- perhaps for their money-detection capabilities, or simply out of the same spiritual beliefs that compel soldiers to wear protective amulets and get tattoos that stop bullets.

Defense of the GT200 has also come from Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, Thailand's colorful celebrity forensic pathologist.

The Thai government has also asked the military to stop using the GT200 as a "lie detector" to provide leverage against people officers think might be hiding bombs or weapons.

Some units have switched to using chopsticks instead.

Others are still using the GT200, with serious consequences for two soldiers who were injured after the device failed to detect a bomb in a market in Pattani.

It's all fun and games until people start getting blown up.

Nonetheless, the timing of Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk is pretty ironic. Another movie being released in Thai cinemas this week is The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow's much-critically acclaimed and awarded drama about a bomb squad in Iraq that doesn't use the GT200 -- it uses men who defuse the bombs.

Bangkok Post film critic Kong Rithdee had more about the irony and Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk, which he roughly translates as "the exhilarating regiment", as well as the history of Thai military comedies in his Saturday column.

And if you can stand it, there's a trailer for Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk embedded below.


  1. Interesting commentary by Kong Rithdee.

    I'd never noticed it was such a trend before. But if you look at the ThaiFilmDB page for renowned comedian Lor Tok (ล้อต๊อก), for example, based on the titles it appears at least a dozen are military-themed, starting around 1980.

    And I agree that the trend is unlikely to change anytime soon.

  2. As far as I know, only MC Chatrichalerm has come close to anything resembling a serious movie about the military. One that comes to mind is Meu Peun (Gunman, มือปืน), in which the poor protagonist assassin is a disabled ex-soldier whose injuries were the result of cowardice by his commander who went on to become a glory-seeking policeman. At least a couple of sacred cows there.

    Oh, thanks to Bangkok Pundit for the link.


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