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[beritamalaysia] Nation : When a 'brilliant movie' is banned in Thailand

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  • Yap Yok Foo
    From The Nation, Thailand 1st January 2000 When a brilliant movie is banned in Thailand Many Americans have praised Anna and The King , with some giving
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 1999
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      From The Nation, Thailand
      1st January 2000

      When a 'brilliant movie' is banned in Thailand

      Many Americans have praised ''Anna and The King'', with some giving it
      rave reviews. Thailand's decision to ban the film has therefore
      puzzled many and raised questions about the true state of democracy in
      this country, writes Veeree Trangtrakul.

      WASHINGTON -- After watching ''Anna and The King'', many Americans
      said they wanted to visit Thailand. The movie, they noted, portrayed
      the ancient history of Siam and reflected what one fan described as an
      ''an amazing and neat'' culture. Many Americans did not know much
      about Thailand before seeing this Hollywood piece, apart from negative
      images of crime, poverty and prostitution.

      ''The movie did somehow change my attitude about Thailand,'' one
      moviegoer said. ''I had not realised how pretty and amazing the
      country is, especially all of the architecture, customs and the
      different but unique lifestyle.''

      ''Anna and The King'' is the story of an English woman who comes to
      Siam to teach English to the King's children. She has no knowledge of
      the country and has to adjust to a new culture. From the King's
      perspective, as written in the movie blurb, ''This women, this
      foreigner, this outsider, she has become a friend''.

      All of the American audiences are aware that the movie is merely a
      fictional recreation of the Siam of more than 100 years ago. They all
      question whether or not Thailand has retained the historical places
      depicted in the movie. ''I would die to see those places,'' one
      American viewer said. ''Considering the fact that the United States
      has little more than 200 years of history, Thailand's thousand years
      is really miraculous,'' said another.

      The ban by Thailand's Censorship Board has surprised many American
      viewers. ''I would understand it if the movie had revealed some
      dreadful things that the King had done. But it's the opposite,'' said
      one viewer.

      ''The Thai government, instead of banning the movie, should have
      thanked Hollywood for making this historical movie and letting the
      world know about their beautiful country.'' he said, adding: ''I bet
      this movie will encourage more travellers to visit Thailand.''

      Cholthanee Koerojna, a native Thai who has lived in the US for
      decades, applauded the movie, saying that ''Anna and The King'' really
      does reflects the King's character as a ''decent, generous and brave
      person''. She cannot comprehend why the Thai government decided to ban
      the film.

      Although Koerojna left Thailand a long time ago she has been involved
      in Thai activities ever since. She has created the website
      thailink.com that aims to preserve the brain drain from Thailand. In
      addition, she took a leading role in the recent International Festival
      that honoured King Bhumipol's 72nd Birthday in Boston, Massachusetts.

      ''I would encourage everyone to see this movie,'' she said. Although
      she has already seen ''Anna and The King'', she said she will see it

      Another native Thai who has been living in the US since she was young
      said the movie makes her want to learn more about her home country.
      ''I have been far away for such a long time, and I can hardly speak or
      understand Thai, but the movie reminds me of where I came from, and I
      wish I could learn more about my country,'' she said.

      She was very surprised when she was told that the movie has been
      banned in Thailand. ''I might not understand a lot about Thailand, and
      that disqualifies me from making any comment,'' she said. ''But this
      kind of censorship would never have happened in the States. Is
      Thailand practising free speech and freedom of the press?

      ''I did not know that the Thai government had the power to impose such
      a ban.'' She added that this made her feel ''glad'' that she was an
      American. ''I would be really upset if the government told me that I
      could not watch a movie that I wanted to see,'' she said. ''And I know
      all Americans would feel the be the same.''

      ''Anna and The King'' has been showing in American cinemas for the
      past two years. Both Chow Yun-Fat, the Hong Kong actor who plays the
      King, and Jodie Foster, who plays Anna, have won praise from critics
      and audiences alike.

      Unfortunately, Thai people have been prohibited from watching this
      historical drama set in their own country, while audiences around the
      world have been able to admire the old Thailand depicted on the silver

      The ruling by the Censorship Board has raised questions about the
      democratic system in Thailand. As one American viewer put it: ''The
      movie is like a beautiful fairly tale. How can a government deprive
      its own people of their rights to explore a piece of art?'' Nobody

      The Nation

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