A documentary examining the Thai-Cambodian border flare-ups has been deemed unfit for screening in Thailand by its Ministry of Culture.
The Film and Video sub-committee of the ministry called the content “a threat to national security and international relations”. In a statement released on Tuesday, they announced that the film “presents some information on incidents that are still being deliberated by the Thai court and that have not yet been officially concluded”.
Director Nontawat Numbenchapol, whose film Boundary was completed last year, vowed to appeal the decision.
“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[s] on the issue,” he wrote in a statement posted on Facebook.
Using recorded footage, interviews with soldiers and residents on both sides of the border, Boundary explores confrontations between political factions in Thailand and the long-running dispute over the Preah Vihear temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962, setting the stage for a conflict that continues today.
Fatal clashes erupted along the border from 2008 to 2011 after the temple was listed as a World Heritage site. The two countries found themselves back in court last week to argue over 4.6 square kilometres surrounding the 11th-century ruin.
Thailand’s censorship committee objected to several “groundless” points in the film, the Bangkok Post reported, including a caption that says there were “nearly 100 deaths” during a crackdown on Thailand’s red-shirt activists in May, 2010. The government maintains an official figure of 89.
In a country where insulting the royal family can result in prison time, censorship authorities have adopted a rigid stance when films wade into sensitive territory. Last year, they banned the Macbeth-inspired Thai film Shakespeare Must Die, arguing that its story of demonstrations and political power struggles might cause disunity.
Thailand’s ambassador to The Hague, Virachai Plasai, who argued the temple territory case before the international court last week, said yesterday that he was unaware of the Ministry of Culture’s decision. While declining to comment, he observed that since the Thai government streamed the hearings on the temple territory live to an audience of millions back home, the subject resonated with the population.
“It’s like everybody is in court; it’s a case that belongs to everybody. I think this sense of ownership suddenly came with the live coverage and the simultaneous interpretation. It becomes real and so people get
involved,” he said.
As always, the temple case generated far less interest in Cambodia; residents consider the case closed after winning the temple in 1962. The less sensitive climate was in evidence last night at a Phnom Penh arts venue, where a screening of a movie about Preah Vihear was scheduled to be followed by an informal talk with a government spokesman.