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Self-regulatory body censors TV ad on political conflict

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The Thai Television Station Joint Censorship Committee recently banned a TV ad that featured the violent events in Bangkok in May 2010, saying that the commercial might spark another round of conflict, media reports said.

"Matichon", a Thai language newspaper, reported on 20 July that the censors board said the ad violated Article 22 (4) of the 1979 Consumer Protection Act. The article bans the dissemination of pictures that "cause rife among or undermine the unity of Thai people." The commercial showed an image of a torn Thai flag.

Entitled "Kor Thod, Prathet Thai" ("We're Sorry, Thailand"), the ad featured a montage of video footage taken at the height of the Red Shirt rally, its dispersal and the ensuing riots in Bangkok in May.

According to the blog, "Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal," ( http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=LuycF&m=1ebJoP_kYzKXin&b=_npkSs48YA6ROb7j_s2cPw ) (where a copy of the ad is uploaded), while a slow tempo version of the song "Auld Lang Syne" is being played in the ad's background, a narrator asks rhetorical questions such as, "Have we done something wrong? Have we been too violent? Have we done our duty? Have we thought of the public? Have we cheated? Have we taken advantage? Have we edified the public? Have we degraded ourselves? Have we cared more about money than what's right? Have we just waited around for help?"

It went on: "If someone is to blame, that someone is all of us. We're sorry, Thailand. And if these problems are to be fixed, then it is us Thais who must stand up and fix them. Let's engrave these losses in our hearts and turn them into strength."

The ad was first screened in an event called "Ignite Thailand" held at Lumpini Park on 16 June, where it received enthusiastic applause from spectators.

The ban has sparked a debate in Thailand, even eliciting a comment from PM Abhisit Vejjaijiva himself. The "Bangkok Post" in its 20 July issue quoted the prime minister as saying that the producers of the ad appeared to have only good intentions "in getting their message across to the Thai people."

Abhisit said the producers "wanted to instill a sense of responsibility in all Thais and encourage them to take action to correct past mistakes."

The ad was produced by a group called Positive Network, composed of members of the advertising and public relations industries in Thailand, along with social networks.

According to new PM Office Minister in charge of media affairs, Ong-art Klampaiboon, the commercial was not totally banned but the censorship board advised it to be altered before sending it back for final approval. He denied the government's involvement in the decision.

ASTV Manager online news quoted Onga-rt as saying the censors board and the ad producer were to meet again on 20 July to discuss ways of resolving the situation.

According to Ong-art, the government could not intervene in the board's decision since it is a self-regulating agency. "There is a clear set of laws about what is allowed and what is not," he said.

"Everyone has a different perspective. For me, this commercial was produced with good intent," he said.

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