Friday, June 3, 2011

Talk of the Demise of the Old Society? ‘Nipit’ in the Bud

Something stinks from Phattalung district and it isn’t just the cans of spoiled fish product distributed by the Abhisit government to hungry flood victims there.

No, I’m talking about the Democratic Party MP candidate from Phattalung, Nipit Intarasombat.
Nipit Intarasombat

His name has been popping up in the American Press quite a bit lately.  Unfortunately, these stories aren’t too flattering of Thailand or of the intelligence of its current leaders.  Nipit is in charge of the Ministry of Culture (often appropriately abbreviated often as MiniCult) and he is the perfect example why Thai Democratic Party beaureaucrats have no place in morality or culture.

He first got the “idiocracy ball” rolling in April with the scandal involving topless teen dancers during the Songkran Water Festival (Thai New Year).  The girls were slapped with a 500 Baht ($17) fine while the person who uploaded the video received a 100,000 Baht ($3,320) fine and a possible prison term for up to five years in violation of the Computer Crimes Act.
Nipit condemned the girls for “destroying the image” of Thailand and because of this issue, the MiniCult will be issuing handbooks to “educate” the youth about Thai culture.

Embarrassingly though,  featured on the MiniCult’s official website there was a watercolor painting depicting three topless women otherwise dressed in ancient Thai garments, welcoming the Thai New Year.

So the protector of Thai Culture had it removed and said "Sometimes, art and obscenity overlaps," But he also said that if people considered this painting to be indecent, he was worried that other artistic pictures and statues of topless women could no longer be displayed in public.

"Or maybe we have to buy bras to cover up the Nang Ngueak and Peesua Samut sculptures to prevent obscenity," he said, referring to a topless mermaid and female sea giant from the Phra Apai-manee legendary tale.
Nipit Intarasombat Protecting the Thai Image
What Would Sunthorn Phu Think?

Here are some of the American news reports:

Another brouhaha concerning MiniCult idiocracy is the crackdown on foreign tourists having religious images tattooed on their bodies while visiting the kingdom.  The Thai Culture Nazi is at it again.

I will inquire at the Office of the National Culture Commission for agreeing on a law banning any religious motives for commercial use, which will penalize both parlors and customers,” said Nipit.

This story was picked up by several American News Agencies, here are a few.

You’d think that after this PR nightmare, Nipit would stop and lay low for awhile. But not this Thai Culturel Nazi. With him it’s full goose step ahead.

The MiniCult is now working to enforce rating systems for all types of print media while bookstores across the country will be asked to arrange zoning for books suitable for different types of readers.

Nipit stated that pending the drafting of print media rating, the ministry will send out letters seeking cooperation from bookstores nationwide to put zoning for all publications, especially zones for small children and youths. Once the rating system is complete, Nipit elaborated that it will include punishment terms for publishers and bookstores failing to comply with the regulation. He reiterated that book zoning must be arranged in accordance with age groups of readers.

The minister personally suggested that books with erotic content or pictures should be for adults only and must be displayed in the adult zone where children cannot have access, similarly to what other countries have been doing. He added that the rating must also cover prohibited books – which is probably what this is all about in the first place.

Mr Nipit continued to say that rating for print media is as important as that for television shows and films; therefore, the new government should give importance to this issue. He noted that a new Minister of Culture should speedily push this matter into materialization.

Nipit is making a mockery out of his ministry department and Thailand. People in the US are finally starting to see him and the government he is part of as being authoritarian and downright idiotic.

Thailand also made a big mistake in arresting American citizen Joe Gordon for lèse majesté. It produced a barrage of insults against the King and Thailand in the US. 

Nipit was quoted recently in response to a public call to amend the lèse majesté law that he did not see any problem with the lèse majesté law and its enforcement. He further stated that in amending any law “one had to consider the social and cultural realities of the country.” “Thailand is among the few countries which still have the institution of the monarchy, so a law like Article 112 should remain,” he said. That is just stupid.

“I’ve never seen Article 112 being used as a political tool, and over 99% of politicians have no problem with the law. I’ve travelled to several countries which used to have monarchies. People there all said in unison that they regretted that they no longer had monarchs, and they wished to have them restored as head of state and a unifying figure. But Thailand still has a monarch as head of state and a unifying force, so we should have the law to protect the institution,” he said. – Now he’s just plain lying.

If Article 112 is amended and moved to the chapter which deals with defamation of individuals, he believes that eventually reduction of penalties or compromise it will be proposed.

Nipit also stated that one proposal to have the Office of HM’s Principal Private Secretary make complaints will “create more problems, because that will make the institution a litigant against the people.” “It is already appropriate that people can make complaints, because this is an offence against national security,” He said.

Nipit is clearly unaware of history. Maybe he should read Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason and Lèse-Majesté by David Streckfuss (if he can find it in the newly zoned Thai bookstores).

Historically, countries which resorted to frequent use of lèse-majesté, including France during the ancien régime, Wilhelmine Germany, and the Ottoman Empire, all eventually became republics. Moreover, the use of the lèse-majesté law tended to reach an apex in these countries in the years before their monarchies were overthrown.

The main problem that resulted from increased use of the law in Wilhelmine Germany bears a striking similarity to the case in Thailand today. According to an 1897 New York Times report on the situation in Germany, “The law has been vigorously enforced, but it has been not only powerless to prevent offenses of this nature – it has, to a large extent, created a condition of affairs it was designed to guard against.” The effects of the lèse-majesté law were “so severe” that one observer feared that Germans without foreign exposure were losing touch with reality: “Many of the things which are believed by the German at home to be necessary to the Teutonic edifice, when viewed with the same eyes from afar, seem archaic and useless.”

Like a dying star about to supernova, protecting public and religious morals is a “last gasp” of Thailand’s conservative elite when “protecting the institutions” of the old society, most notably the monarchy.  Consider the need for protection a signal of demise.  Time to “Nipit in the Bud.”

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