This is part XX of “Tongue-Thai’ed!”, in which we encapsulate the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures – in short: everything we hear that makes us go “Huh?!”. Check out all past entries here.
Chiang Mai will host the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit this week. Leaders from 50 different countries and countless of other participants from academia, the public and private sector are expected to come to discuss anything related with water management from irrigation to security – and one Thai deputy prime minister has shot off his mouth again, but not the one you might be thinking about!
Thailand of course has had a lot of experiences in recent years with the liquid element, in particular with the 2011 flood crisis as unprecedented amounts of rain and the inadequate responses by the Kingdom’s dams have caused widespread floods across the country, killing hundreds of people.
The national government relief efforts were hampered by constant squabbles with the local Bangkok Metropolitan Authority. However, it was then science minister and overseer of the flood relief efforts Plodprasop Suraswadi who cemented the government’s image of a bumbling mess when he jumped the gun before anybody else and ordered on national TV a premature evacuation order for a local Bangkok district – only for it to be called off later by somebody else.
Since then, Plodprasob lost his place at the Science and Technology Ministry and has been appointed deputy prime minister (one of six) overseeing water management and also in charge of a THB 350bn (US $11.8bn) budget for flood prevention projects.
Now Plodprasob is heading this week’s water conference and is hellbent to not only show Thailand’s commitment to water management and flood protection, but also to show the city of Chiang Mai as a splendid conference venue. And everything seemed to go well, if it weren’t for those pesky environmental and water preservation activists that have announced to protest at the Water Summit…
สำหรับกรณีที่อาจจะกลุ่มมวลชนที่ทำงานด้านทรัพยากรน้ำมาเคลื่อนไหวชุมนุมและแสดงความเห็นระหว่างการประชุมในครั้งนี้นั้น นายปลอดประสพ กล่าวว่า หากมีการชุมนุมประท้วงจะให้เจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจทำการจับกุมดำเนินคดีทั้งหมด เพราะสถานที่จัดการประชุมในครั้งนี้ไม่ใช่สถานที่จัดการประท้วง ซึ่งขอเตือนผู้ที่จะชุมนุมประท้วงว่าอย่ามาเด็ดขาด จะสั่งจับให้หมด [...] จะมีก็แต่จัดคุกไว้ให้เท่านั้น และจะไม่มีการพูดคุยเจรจาใดๆ ทั้งสิ้น จับอย่างเดียว [...]
Concerning the potential protests by water conservationists’ groups against the summit, Plodprasob said that in that case that the police should arrest them all, because this summit this not meant for protests. He urges protesters not to come at all, since they are going to be arrested [...] and detained right away without any warning [...]
“มาก็จับ ทำผิดกฎหมายก็จับ มันไม่ใช่ที่ที่จะมาประท้วง ฝากบอกไปด้วย มาประชุม [...] ไม่มีที่ไหนใครเขาไปทำร้ายใคร บรูไนเขามาพูดเรื่องบรูไน อิหร่านเขาก็มาพูดเรื่องอิหร่าน เกาหลีเขาก็มาพูดเรื่องเกาหลี คุณจะมาประท้วงอะไร อย่ามานะ ทำผิดกฎหมาย สั่งจับเลย และคนเชียงใหม่ก็ไม่ควรปล่อยให้พวกขยะเหล่านี้มาเกะกะ คุณเขียนอย่างผมพูดเลย กล้าเขียนหรือไม่” รองนายกรัฐมนตรี กล่าว
“When they come, they’ll get arrested. When they break the law, they’ll get arrested. Let them [the protesters] know, [...] nobody [coming to the summit] is coming to harm us – the Bruneians are gonna talk Bruneian issues, the Iranians about Iranian issues, the Koreans about Korean issues – what are you protesting against?! Don’t come here! Break the law and you’ll be arrested right away! And all the people of Chiang Mai should not allow this garbage to obstruct [us]. You can write it down like this – I dare you to!” said the deputy prime minister.
“‘ปลอดประสพ’ตรวจสถานที่ถกผู้นำด้านน้ำเอเซีย-แปซิฟิก ว๊ากห้ามม็อบป่วนเด็ดขาด : ข่าวสดออนไลน์“, Khao Sod, May 12, 2013 – translation by me
YOU BET WE WILL WRITE IT DOWN HERE LIKE THIS!!!
Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s Office Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan was quoted urging protesters not to, um, protest for the sake of putting “national reputations first because this summit is an academic meeting of global importance,” echoing many countless past examples (e.g. Prayuth) that put ‘national image’ above any substantial discussion of various issues.
And the deputy prime minister Plodprasob is further going to uphold Thailand’s image and promote the Kingdom’s values and history to international delegates by – and I’m not making this up – by taking part in a large-scale stage performance playing the 13th century Lanna King Mangrai - and the ‘best’ part: he’s going to be in full costume…!
According to media reports the play will the tell the story of King Mangrai’s role saving the the ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam from floods, whereas the historical King Mangrai simply moved the capital of the Lanna Kingdom to what nowadays is Chiang Mai. No word on if and how much money of the THB 350bn flood prevention budget has gone into this production.
Unsurprisingly, the (unflattering) sight of a government minister in charge of flood prevention playing an ancient king apparently known for his flood prevention efforts is just one single magnet for very obvious ridicule. Others criticize the potential historical misrepresentation and the role of the King being grossly miscast - to which the deputy minister also has a blunt answer…!
“ส่วนเอ็นจีโอกังวลการแสดงบิดเบือนข้อมูลนั้น คนที่พูดเรื่องนี้เป็นคนที่น่าเกลียดที่สุด ผมเล่นตามบทประพันธ์ ตามประวัติ ซึ่งทำเป็นลายลักษณ์อักษร จะไปบิดเบือนอะไร เขาไม่ได้นิสัยโกหกอย่างพวกคุณ [...] กรุณาอย่าถามผมเลย ผมรู้สึกรังเกียจที่จะรับฟังและตอบ” นายปลอดประสพ กล่าว
“To those NGOs that whine the play will twist historical facts, those are the most despicable! My role will be according to the play and based on history, what’s there to twist?! They’re not lying like those [the NGO activists]! [...] Please don’t bother me with such questions, I feel annoyed to listen and answer to those,” Plodprasob said.
“‘ปลอด’ฉุน!อัดคนต้านเล่น’พญามังราย’“, Khom Chad Luek, May 15, 2013
For somebody who is very concerned to put on a good show to the world, Plodprasob has certainly already made quite an impression before the summit week. In a normal world his antics would have led him to exit stage left – but since this is Thailand, it might take a few more chapters until the final curtain falls on him.
About the author:
Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and freelance foreign correspondent. He writes about Thai politics and current affairs since 2010 and reports for international news media like Channel NewsAsia. Read his full bio on about.me/saksith.
Bangkok has inched another step closer to hosting a Formula 1 race in Thailand after the approval of a track route in the old part of the capital. But does the city have the infrastructure to host an event of this size?
We have documented Bangkok’s bid to host a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship since the first concrete rumors emerged in early 2012, fueled by strong financial backers such as the energy drink maker and world championship winning F1 team owners Red Bull. Speaking of costs, we then looked at the potential costs to Thailand and the city to host a race weekend in the middle of the city the bill came in at about estimated to be around $40m, not including the cost of the venue itself.
What has been noticeable in this story is how vocal the Thai organizers have been – going ahead with the announcement last October that the Grand Prix is as good as a “done deal” – and the silence of the governing body Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and the promoting Formula One Management (FOM), headed by Bernie Ecclestone, who normally don’t like when local organizers jump the gun. Despite all that, F1 supremo Ecclestone gave the Thailand Grand Prix his blessing, aiming for an appearance on the 2015 calendar.
It would be the third race in Southeast Asia, with Sepang in Malaysia and Singapore being the other two. Singapore is currently also the host of the only night race on the calendar.
Local organizers have long expressed their desire to have Formula 1 cars race in the streets of Bangkok at night. Last Friday, the Sports Authority of Thailand announced that it has now finalized the track layout, and here it is:
The almost 6km-long city street circuit is essentially an extended and updated version of the planned track route for the 1939 Bangkok Grand Prix, which was cancelled due to World War II. It features 12 c0rners (seven right, right left), and typical for a street course many of these are 90 degree turns. The course will lead drivers past many iconic landmarks in the old downtown part of Bangkok such as Wat Phra Kaew, Sanam Luang, (to a certain extent) Khao Sarn Road, around Democracy Monument and most impressive of all it will go right around the Grand Palace.
The route would give spectators and TV viewers the chance to see several tourist spots such as the Grand Palace, Victory Monument and Temple of Dawn, [Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand] said.
Makeshift stands could be built in several areas along the route and would be able to accommodate about 150,000 people, according to the governor.
“As the starting and finishing point would be on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, we may be able to build the main stands in the river. It would also be convenient for transportation of equipment,” he said.
“Only a small group of residents would be affected by the proposed route.”
“Green light for race route“, Bangkok Post, April 26, 2013
The start and finish is proposed to be at the Royal Thai Navy Dockyard next to the Grand Palace, which begs the question where the pit lane and paddock will be built, since there’s only a medium-sized parking lot with a pavilion in the middle of it next to a couple of tennis courts – and the grandstands are supposed to be built on the river behind the pit buildings…?
Naturally, there are a lot of new questions that need answering on top of the already existing ones: How severe will the effects be on the residents and traffic itself considering it takes weeks to close off the streets in order to build the circuit and to dismantle again? Bangkok’s traffic problems are notorious. How many roads do need to be repaved, how many traffic ‘islands’, electrical poles and drainages removed and most of all: how many million baht will this spectacle actually cost?
FIA officials reportedly visited the city earlier this year to see the proposed route and the location itself first hand, but have made no comments yet, as this track needs to pass inspection to meet FIA safety standards. Should this inner city plan be fall through, Thai officials still have a plan B for an alternative venue, which will be in the less-central, less accessible and frankly less attractive outskirts of Muang Thong Thani or Chang Wattana.
The final decision on whether or not Bangkok will host the Thailand Grand Prix will be made in October 2014, when the FIA will decide on the 2015 calendar.
h/t to a Twitter follower
Earlier this week, the Thai independent documentary “Boundary” or “ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง” (literally “Low heaven, high ground”) on the Thai-Cambodia border dispute around the ancient Hindu temple Preah Vihear was banned from commercial release by a sub-committee of the Thai national Film and Video Board (see previous coverage) for endangering “national security and international relations” and misinforming an unknowing audience about ongoing legal cases. The Film and Video Board lifted the ban on Thursday, citing a “technical mistake”.
Filmmaker Nontawat Numbenchapol follows a young Thai ex-soldier who took part in the bloody crackdown on the anti-government red shirt protests 2010 on his way back to his home village in Sisaket province near the border, where the conflict between Cambodia and Thailand was heating up. The movie also features accounts from locals from both sides of the border and mentions Thailand’s other conflicts, such as the insurgency in the Deep South.
Thailand and Cambodia have been in a territorial dispute since the ownership of the ancient Preah Vihear temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by International Courts of Justice, where both countries testified last week in seeking a new ruling on the 4.6 sq km area around the World Heritage site from the ICJ. A verdict is expected in October later this year.
In recent years the conflict has escalated into armed clashes between the two countries. Forty people have been killed since June 2008, hundreds injured and thousands of locals displaced. The Preah Vihear issue is also constantly exploited by Thai ultra-nationalists to drum up anti-Cambodia sentiment and pressure military and politicians, driven by the fear of “losing territory to the Khmer”.
Reports indicated that the censors might have taken offense at a lot of things in the documentary, including soundbites of Cambodian soldiers and villagers criticizing their Thai neighbors, the stated number of casualties of the 2010 red shirt protests (100 vs. officially 84) and footage from the clashes.
“Boundary” would have been the third movie banned from commercial release in Thailand, along with 2010′s “Insect in the Backyard” and 2012′s “Shakespeare Must Die”. The ban unsurprisingly drew much attention and condemnation, especially from foreign media – such as* AP, The Guardian or The Hollywood Reporter – and on social networks. The movie was screened at small movie festivals in Thailand, and also at the Berlinale earlier this year.
Now it seems things have turned, according to the filmmaker on the movie’s Facebook page on Thursday evening:
Ban Verdict Overturned: “Boundary” has been cleared to screen with 18-plus rating
The Film and Video Board, attached to the Office of Cultural Promotion, contacted the filmmaker of Boundary on Thursday to apologize for the “technical mistake” regarding the ban order on Tuesday, April 23. The filmmaker was informed that the ban order was the decision of a sub-committee that in fact has no authority to issue such verdict. Only the main committee has the jurisdiction to do so. When the main committee saw the film on Thursday, April 25, they decided to let the film pass. Also, before banning any movie, the committee is required to allow its director to defend himself, but that didn’t happen on Tuesday.
However, the censors asked the director to remove two seconds of ambience sound in an early scene. That scene is the New Year’s celebration at Ratchaprasong Intersection during which an MC announces on stage: “Let’s count down to celebrate HM the King’s 84th anniversary”. The censors expressed concerns that this might lead to misinterpretation.
The filmmaker realizes that the sound has no significance to the story of the film and agreed to mute it.
The sub-committee who banned the films cited several inappropriate issues and presentation, but the main committee does not object to any of them. Besides those two seconds of audio, the entire film remains intact.
25 April 2013
(emphasis by me)
A couple of interesting points here: Why does the documentary get an 18+ rating? Also, that part that is to be muted also seems odd – why did the censors take so much offense to it when it bears no significance to the movie? How severely misinterpreted can that part (in Thai “เรามาร่วมเคาท์ดาวน์และร่วมฉลองให้พระบาทสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัว มีพระชนมายุครบ 84 พรรษา” ) be that it needs to be muted?
What went wrong at the Thai Film and Video Board that allegedly a subcommittee was able to order a ban, while it had no power to do so? And how much did the public backlash affect yesterday’s decision?
No details for a release date and locations have been released yet.
* the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also published a press release condemning the ban on Thursday night Bangkok time – just six hours after the ban was already overturned…!
A Thai independent documentary about the disputed border region with Cambodia and the ancient Hindu temple Preah Vihear has been banned from screening in Thailand for “national security” reasons, according to the filmmaker.
The movie “Boundary” or “ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง” (literally “Low heaven, high ground”) by Nontawat Numbenchapol revolves around a young Thai soldier from the violent crackdown on the anti-government red shirt protests 2010 on his way back to his home village in Sisaket Province near the border and local life with the dispute looming in the background.
On Tuesday, the movie’s Facebook page posted an update that the movie has been banned from screens nationwide and cites the authorities as saying:
ผลการตรวจพิจารณาภาพยนตร์ ของคณะอนุกรรมการพิจารณาภาพยนตร์และวีดีทัศน์ เรื่องฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง ไม่อนุญาตให้เผยแพร่ในราชอาณาจักรไทย ด้วยเนื้อหาที่ขัดต่อความมั่นคงของชาติ และความสัมพันธไมตรีระหว่างประเทศ และการนำเสนอข้อมูลบางเหตุการณ์ยังอยู่ในขั้นตอนการพิจารณาของศาล โดยไม่มีบทสรุปทางเอกสาร
“The Film and Video sub-committee [attached to the Ministry of Culture] do not permit the documentary film “Boundary” (Fah Tam Pandin Soong) to be screened in the Kingdom of Thailand. The film’s content is a threat to national security and international relations. The film presents some information on incidents that are still being deliberated by the
Thaicourt and that have not yet been officially concluded.”
Facebook update by Nontawat Numbenchapol, April 23, 2013 – translation by Nontawat, emphasis by me
The area around the ancient Hindu temple has been at the center of a long territorial dispute between Cambodia and Thailand since the ownership of the temple has been awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962. The conflict heated up again in recent years, escalating in armed clashes on the border in 2011. Forty people were killed, hundreds injured on both sides and thousands of locals have been displaced.
The 4.6 sq km area remains disputed territory with both countries drawing up different border lines. Last week, the two countries went to court again at the petition of Cambodia to the ICJ to reinterpret the vicinity of the original 1962 verdict. A judgement is expected in October 2013.
The Bangkok Post has listed some points in the film that might have caused issues with the censors:
The film also includes YouTube footage of Thai soldiers in action during a border skirmish in 2011, a survey of damage from Cambodian shellings, and a long monologue from a Cambodian soldier who criticises Thailand. (…)
One concern is a caption explaining that there were “nearly 100 deaths” during the red-shirt crackdown at Ratchaprasong on May 2010. The official figure is 89.
“Preah Vihear documentary banned“, Bangkok Post, April 24, 2013
Nontawat defended his documentary, saying that…
จากย่อหน้าข้างต้นคือส่วนหนึ่งของเหตุผลที่ภาพยนตร์ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง ไม่ได้รับอนุญาตให้เผยแพร่ในราชอาณาจักรไทย โดยข้อมูลทั้งหมดที่ผมได้จากการลงไปยังพื้นที่จริงจากมุมมองของประชาชนในพื้นที่จริงที่อาศัยอยู่บริเวณชายแดน ไทย – กัมพูชา ที่ได้รับผลกระทบโดยตรงจากข้อพิพาทกรณีเขาพระวิหาร ส่วนหนึ่งทางผู้สร้างต้องการให้ภาพยนตร์เรื่อง ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง เป็นพื้นที่การแสดงออกให้ประชาชนในพื้นที่ที่ได้รับผลกระทบจริงๆได้แสดงมุมมอง ทัศนคติ และ ความคิดเห็นที่พวกเค้าไม่มีโอกาสได้สื่อและได้พูดออกมาสู่สาธารณชนได้รับรู้ ประชาชนควรมีสิทธิได้พูดในสิ่งที่คิด และภาพยนตร์ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูงเป็นการนำสารของประชาชนทุกฝ่ายมาสู่สาธารณชน และอยากให้ฟังความคิดเห็นที่ต่างกันและอยู่ร่วมกันได้ในสังคม และยังคงเชื่อว่าประชาชนไทยมีวิจารณญาณในการทำความเข้าใจในชุดข้อมูลนี้ด้วยตัวของพวกเขาเอง
The information I present in my film has been gathered from my first-hand experience in actual locations of the ongoing Thai-Cambodian border conflicts. It presents the viewpoints of the residents in the border areas who feel direct impact of the Preah Vihear spats. One of my intentions is to let the film be a space for the people in the troubled territories to voice their views, opinions and feelings that they haven’t had a chance to do so in the media report on the issue. I believe that the public deserve to hear these voices, and I believe that the people in the conflicts have a right to speak their minds. The film “Boundary” wishes to bring messages from involved parties to the public domain, in order that we’re able to listen to, as well as learn to tolerate, different opinions. I believe that the Thai public possess the intellect and judgment to interpret and understand the information proposed by the film.
Facebook update by Nontawat Numbenchapol, April 23, 2013 – translation by Nontawat, emphasis by me
What eventually led to the ban – be it the Preah Vihear angle or references to the 2010 red shirt protests the film begins with – has unsurprisingly not been further explained by the National Film Board and the Film and Video Screening Office, which has a track record of issuing rare but notable bans on small independent films critically dealing with social or political issues.
Among these were 2010′s “Insect in the Backyard” by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit – a drama about a transsexual taking care of two teenagers who eventually turn to prostitution – that was not banned for strong depictions of sex, but rather the “immoral” and “unnecessary” display of child sex workers.
More recently, last year’s “Shakespeare Must Die” also fell victim to the censors. The Thai adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” by Ing K. and Manit Sriwanichpoom is set in an alternative Thailand ruled by a “dear leader” and mob mentality – a thinly veiled allegory to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and to the various political color-coded street protesters. The film board banned the movie fearing it could ”causes divisiveness among the people of the nation”.
What all these bans have in common is that the censors assume that the content is too much to handle for the Thai audience and might be confused by the messages, images or motives, fictional or not. In the case of “Boundary”, the censors deny on ludicrous grounds the viewers a chance to see the daily lives of those that are affected most by the border dispute around Preah Vihear.
Nontawat says he will appeal the ban.
Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away on Monday at the age of 87 and with the passing of a historical figure like her, the mechanisms of the media go into full swing as her political legacies are discussed with either passion or loathing (while social media discussed whether or not the etiquette-based courtesy should be better dropped).
Of course, the Thai mainstream also runs its tributes and obituaries. However, when people tuned into the army-owned Channel 5 for the news on the death of Thatcher – they saw this:
Yes, this is NOT the late Thatcher but rather US actress Meryl Streep portraying her in the 2011 movie The Iron Lady. After one viewer snapped a screenshot of this and posted it on Facebook, a flood of schadenfreude was poured onto Channel 5 by Thai netizens.
(READ MORE: Taiwan TV shows queen in reports on Thatcher death)
Obviously, this was the result of a quick Google picture search and taking the next best picture that showed up. But it does beg the question whether or not this will be the last time that a TV newsroom will make such a (admittedly hilarious) mistake and confuse the real world figures with the actors playing them – we probably can expect to see future mix-ups like Hellen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II or Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela!
But let’s not go too hard on the Thai media. The BBC had a howler of its own on Monday afternoon: