The Ministry of Information on Tuesday announced a ban on television and radio of a popular song by singer Chen Sai Chai for supposedly “insulting” and “humiliating” teachers, though the musicians have said their lighthearted tune is aimed at bettering society.
Produced by Town Production and written and composed by Yem Tasrong and Tho Meet, Kru bong rien srovoeung sra, or “Drunk Teacher”, was criticised for portraying educators in a way that is “opposite to the behaviour and morals of teachers in general, which severely affects the reputation and dignity of the teachers”, according to a ministry statement.
“The meaning of the song insults and humiliates teachers by saying they drink almost every day, drink during the day, smell of alcohol when they speak, display aggressive behaviour and beat the students when they are drunk,” it continues.
Signed by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, a former teacher himself, the statement announces a ban on television and radio broadcasts of the song effective immediately, though online dissemination is not mentioned.
“The meaning of the song could be implanted on the minds and feelings of the young children who do not have the [mental] foundation for clear consideration,” it states.
Reached yesterday, songwriter Tasrong said he had “no bad intentions with writing this song”, which in a prior TV interview he said was based on his own experiences as a schoolboy.
“All I wanted is to contribute to society, and I don’t understand why the ministry bans the song,” he said yesterday. “Something like that never happened to me before.”
“The meaning of the song does not mean any insult to teachers,” he said of the social critique, noting that “in the lyrics, I only mention one teacher, not teachers in general”.
Singer Sai Chai, in a prior interview on Town TV, had praised the song for its socially conscious message.“I want to have a lot of songs I can contribute to society . . . Songs should not focus only on romantic relationships,” she said.
The ballad, which features humorous lyrics sung with gravity, has received over 40,000 views on Town Production’s official YouTube channel.
“When you are drunk you are unusually mean, you use strange teaching techniques, you shout and you beat [us],” Sai Chai croons. “Teachers are supposed to be second parents.
“Some teachers work so hard and follow the rules, why is my teacher so strange? What happened to you? You drink every day, which violates the principles of the teacher.”
Reached yesterday, Nen Sokha, a teacher at Boeung Trabek High School, said if the song was purely denigrating the image of teachers, then he supported the ban, but if the lyrics distinguished between good and bad teachers then it was not insulting to the profession.
“It disturbs their study a bit because they may feel not good towards the teacher,” he said. “In real life they know that teachers are people, sometimes they drink.” For arts advocate Lomorpich Rithy, the ministry’s move was “childish” and “a waste of time”.
“The ministries have many things to do besides ban songs one by one,” she said, adding that it would be more productive to instead look at why an artist would write such a song.
“Can we come back and talk about the definition of art? Isn’t art the reflection of society? So what is the problem?” she asked.
Noting the lyrics pertain to one individual and not to the profession generally, Rithy expressed confusion about the Ministry’s reasoning.
“I’m not sure how they see it, so I’m afraid to say they misunderstood, but I’m curious to know why they always come up with an idea to ban a piece of art,” she said, adding that there are no clear rules or policies to decide what is or is not acceptable, regardless of whether the Ministry of Information or Culture is making the choice.
“It’s [done] randomly . . . They have all rights to ban everything in this country or what? What is that?” she asked.
Town Production has had run-ins with censors in the past, with one of its songs banned by the Ministry of Culture last year for allegedly insulting boxers, as well as several songs from a 2014 Khmer New Year album also blocked from the airwaves.
This is also not the first education-related song to have caught Minister Kanharith’s eye. In March 2016, the Information Ministry banned a song by Pich Sophea that sarcastically joked about boredom at school and jokingly encouraged students to fake sickness to escape.
Multiple calls to the information minister and the ministry spokesman went unanswered yesterday.
Updated: 6:53am, Thursday 21 December 2017
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