Thailand Bans ‘Arbat’ Movie on Religious Grounds

The Thai government has banned the release of “Arbat,” a locally-made horror film that was set to have released later this week.

The Ministry of Culture said Monday that its Film and Media Screening Committee banned the film because it was disrespectful to monks and novices.

The film, directed by Kanittha Kwunyoo, tells the story of a young man who is forced by his father to become a monk. The young man later develops an intimate relationship with a village girl.

Producer and distributor, Sahamongkolfilm quickly cancelled a press screening scheduled for Tuesday and halted the commercial release planned for Thursday. It is allowed to appeal the ban.

Following the release of the film’s trailer last month, protest groups wrote to the ministry calling for a ban on the grounds that the film’s depictions may cause people to lose their Buddhist faith.

The ministry gave four reasons for its ban: depiction of monks engaged in violent conduct; monks drinking alcohol; monks in sexual relations; portraying images that are disrespectful to Buddha. Three of these contravene the five central precepts of Buddhism. The ministry said that the ban could be reversed if cuts were made to the movie.

Thai officialdom has previously intervened to defend the public image of the Buddhist religion as portrayed by the movie industry. In 2006 Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Syndromes and a Century” was banned for showing monks kissing, drinking and playing guitar. Weerasethakul, who went on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2010 with “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” refused to make cuts and “Syndromes” remains unreleased in Thailand.

However, Thai news media regularly carries reports of monks who have made vast personal fortunes from their religious services, become celebrities and live decadent, materialistic lives.

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