Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thai Cultural Surveillance Center: We Protect the Purity of Thai Culture from the Influences of the Evil Farang

Here comes the culture brigade

A department under the Ministry of Culture, whose mission is to 'protect the nation's culture and values through the process of surveillance,' is on the lookout for everything from inappropriate ringtones to promiscuously worn university uniforms, writes ERIKA FRY

High above Bangkok in the 18th-storey offices of Thailand's Cultural Surveillance Centre, the nation's moral monitors are hard at work.

They surf the internet. They watch movies. They scan the pages of glossy girlie magazines in search of women that are objectionably topless (there is a fine, but significant line between bare-chested and bare-breasted, I am told).

Should they get bored, there are 40-some television screens that line the far wall and flicker with broadcasts of the fashion channel and cable news to keep tabs on.

It is they - the Ministry of Culture's eight culture monitors - that make the calls on what in the nation's ever-thickening (so I am also told) annals of smut to blur, block, cover with black boxes, or ban altogether.

Democracy in Thailand is a farce if you have unelected big haired yentas without a braincell between them determining what is right and wrong.

Operating under the Ministry of Culture, the Cultural Surveillance Centre's mission is to "protect the nation's culture and values through the process of surveillance," in the words of its director, Ladda Thangsupachai, and to "disseminate cultural information as a means of providing immunity against cultural mutation; and serving as a focal point of culture monitoring network dedicated to safeguarding of Thai cultural identities," in the words inscribed on the cover of its quarterly Journal of Culture Surveillance Center. The periodical is distributed to Thai embassies abroad and foreign embassies in Thailand.

What the fuck does that post-modern jargon mean? Again, Thais love to use complicated explanations to explain simple shit.

"Surveillance" entails review of the local and foreign media, arts, film, and Internet, as well as observation of citizens and public events for insight into fashion and recreational trends. The culture monitors occasionally go afield, for example, on teen-watching missions to internet cafes and Ratchada, or on trips to the provinces on the lookout for Coyote girls dancing at temples.

Cultural Gestapo? Lovely. I feel protected already.


While the Surveillance Centre's eye is cast far and wide enough to scrutinise dictionaries and restaurant decor on foreign shores, their efforts interestingly steer clear of Nana, Patpong and a number of the nation's other locales which seem to teem with scantily-clad females and bootlegged copies of censored DVDs like Team America: World Police.

This, I am told, is because those places are not part of national culture, but commercial and entertainment ventures that fall under the laws, regulations, and jurisdiction of the police. I ask whether such places have any impact on the nation's culture or morals, and she admits probably some, but says that such areas are mostly frequented by tourists and that it would be "strange" if Thailand didn't have such a place.

She reminds me that Bangkok is not unlike other big cities: the Netherlands has Amsterdam; Singapore, it's sex shops; and America, Las Vegas. She adds that it is "impossible to get rid of unless we get rid of human desires."

Later in the conversation, though, she speaks of the time she took an exploratory trip to Patpong for work. She calls it an immoral place for tourists that do not have normal behaviours.

I ask her if it bothers her that Thailand attracts the abnormally behaving tourist who comes to do immoral things. She blames the tour companies and the negative image perpetuated by previous tourists and foreign media, presumably like the aforementioned dictionary.

Nana, Patpong, Soi Cowboy are small red light ghettoes that cater to farang sexpats and sex tourists.

On the other hand, Ratchadapisek Road is like the Las Vegas Strip of hookerdom with massive brothels that serve the Thais, Japanese, and Chinese. And these massive brothels mix in the landscape with shopping malls and markets that cater to Thai families. And Petchaburi Road is not that different.

What about the gazillion brothels that cater to the Thai market that have nothing to do with foreigners or tourism?

Brothels and sexually immoral behavior were in Thailand long before tourism took off in Thailand. In fact, prostitution at one point was a royal monopoly. During ancient times, Thailand even had a krom(department) of prostitution with a minister of high rank administering it.



Anonymous said...

Wait... these bureaucrats are being paid to surf the internet, watch movies, and scan the pages of glossy girlie magazines in search of women wearing skimpy clothing and tight university uniforms?!?

Where do I apply for a job?

Fonzi said...

If there was stand up comedy in Thailand, that definitely would be a joke.

Hang onto it, the absurdity and material is endless.

Anonymous said...

It is consistent with the ministers comments about Pemmika and the action that the Uni took against the actress wearing a revealing dress. It might be a good idea if the idiots running for every possible sound bite should first pause and give thought to this important question: "If I say/do this, will I look like a complete fucking idiot?". if the answer is yes and they still do it, sack them for incompetence and bringing the government into disrepute. If the answer is no, sack them for lack of political nous, because almost everything these buggers do is stupid.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's anybody's fault but our own for this idiot run government.

After all, we did vote these fools into power... oh wait, we didn't...

hobby said...

The people were idiots and fooled into continuing to vote Thaksin into power - that's why we've got this government!

fall said...

If this is a government ministry. That mean our MP daddy Chuwit got a shot of being a minister?

Do we need his vote to pass a cultural resolution?

Anonymous said...

I'm dead serious. I want to work at that tight university uniform surveillance center. I'd be extremely dedicated to my job. I'd even go around Siam where all the hot girls are and try to find the guy that's always taking those morality corrupting voyeur pictures. They are menaces to society!

Anonymous said...


Can I come too? Too much to do for just one bloke!

Personally, I think the Thai Culture police should ban all breasts and bums. You cant walk down the streets without seeing hundreds of them, all jiggling about and bouncing around.


Sure they are all fully clothed but that doesnt fool me, we all know whats in there.


Ban them all I say.

Now... back to wife number 2 for a nice cup of green tea and a shag.