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Thailand passes controversial film act

Laws had largely been unchanged since 1930

BANGKOK – Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly passed the controversial Film Act on Thursday, replacing laws that have been in place largely unchanged since 1930.

An eight-month-long campaign by local film professionals to end censorship went unheeded. The new law stipulates a complex rating system which still gives the state the right to ban a movie and prevent its release in the kingdom.

The rating system is made up of “P” (films that are of educational value and should be promoted for Thai auds), “G” (fit for all age groups), “under 13 not admitted,” “under 15 not admitted,” “under 18 not admitted” and “under 20 not admitted.” However, it does not include an “under 24” category which had been discussed in some media circles.

Notably, the Film Act authorizes the state to forbid the release of movies that “undermine or disrupt social order and moral decency, or that might impact national security or the pride of the nation”.

Another point set to enrage film bizzers is the article that sees the country’s chief of police join the National Film and Video Committee. Previous drafts of the law did not include the police as members of the rating committee, though historically the police have chaired the film censorship board.

“Given the political climate in Thailand at the moment, I’m not totally surprised that the new law still keeps the banning order,” helmer Apichatpong Weerasethakul said. “I’m disappointed of course, because the lawmakers paid no attention to what we’ve been fighting for months.”

To implement the rating system, a supplementary law will have to be written to cover operational aspects. But it’s not clear when the system will actually be implemented in Thai theatres.