Director of Thailand-Cambodia border docu vows to fight ban

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - The director of the latest banned Thai film about the Thai-Cambodian border dispute and rifts in Thai politics, says his documentary film is a collection of views from various sides on the ground and he will appeal to the censorship committee to reconsider its ban.

Nontawat Nambenjapol, director of the documentary film Fah Tam Phaendin Soong or Boundary in English, told The Nation yesterday that people on both sides of the Thai-Cambodian border do not want war. Thai villagers along the border in Si Sa Ket province, whom he met and interviewed for the film, blamed Thai domestic politics for fanning ultra-nationalism.

"They do not want war. They lived there in peace for 30 to 45 years and had no problems and recognised Preah Vihear as part of Cambodia - and see the [current] problem as stemming from Thai [domestic] politics," said Nontawat, 29, whose film is 96 minutes long and was screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

The film includes comments by a Cambodian soldier and Cambodian villagers along the other side of the border as well. The director said the soldier felt that Thailand was encroaching on Cambodian land, while Cambodian villagers did not want war as both sides agreed that "if there's war, there will be losses on both sides".

The five-man censorship panel under the Culture Ministry cited risk of creating misinformation and rifts in society for banning it, considering the film as a threat to national security and bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia. The committee also cited the title of the film as possibly creating a negative impression of the Thai monarchy because the word 'fah' or sky, can also be used as a casual alternate reference to the monarchy and the phrase implied that the sky is low.

Nontawat, a Bangkokian, said he was surprised by the ban, but vowed to fight on. "I can still speak, write and convey my message as to how real local people think about the issue." He also denied his film had anything to do with the issue of the monarchy, saying that the title of the film was adopted from an old love song dated from the 1970s about how people who think differently should be able to coexist.

Kriengsak Silakong, director of the World Film Festival of Bangkok, said the ban would neither succeed nor stop people who want to see the film from accessing it on the Internet or through other means, and the decision is damaging to the censorship committee itself. "They cannot ban it a hundred per cent," Kriengsak told The Nation.

Manit Sriwanichpoom, co-director of another banned Thai film Shakespeare Must Die, who is currently fighting the ban through a legal petition at the Administrative Court, said he hasn't watched Nontawat's film, but is categorically against censorship.

"People should be able to use their own judgement as to whether they would agree with the information conveyed in the film or not. Cambodians also have the right to criticise Thailand. I want to see a society where critical thinking is employed. The ban by the censorship committee is condescending towards the mental ability of Thai people," said Manit, who added that it's time to rethink the existence and role of the committee.

Prisana Pongtadsirikul, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Culture, said that the censorship committee has unanimously concluded that the film negatively affected the monarchy institution, negatively affected good bilateral relations. "The content also causes disunity in society, contains sex-related content and displays frontal nudity, and was not respectful of religions and so cannot be showed in the kingdom," she added.

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