We’re sick of the Ministry of ‘Culture’-Nation

December 15, 2009

New Facebook group: We’re sick of the Ministry of Culture

Kong Rithdee

Bangkok Post: December 9, 2009


We’re Sick of the Ministry of Culture in Thailand: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Were-sick-of-Ministry-of-Culture-in-Thailand/194137772053?ref=search&sid=764275576.1945369995..1

Don’t come after me, I’m in Dubai (seriously), and I have no idea who founded a new Facebook group, which is attracting robust clicks: It’s prominently titled “We’re sick of the Ministry of Culture.”

Except a few well-coiffed ladies, who isn’t? Our Ministry of (non)Culture is incredibly creative in cooking up unnecessary scandals due solely to their Jurassic outlook, authoritarian leanings and the staunch refusal to live in the real world. The straw that breaks a camel’s back (please permit the metaphor, I’m drifting on an Emirati desert) is the latest incident that took place this week: Two web posters, one of them my source, were threatened with a lawsuit by one of the Culture Ministry’s well-known watchdogs (she’s human, by the way) after they posted critical messages on the popular Pantip web forum disparaging the antediluvian policies of our inglorious ministry. The messages, for instance, discussed the regressive tendency of the ministry as well as its dogged refusal to encourage cultural diversity by sticking to the narrow-minded definition of what Thai culture is. My source cited a name in his comments: Ladda Tangsupachai, the watchdog chief who has a low opinion on modern art, love songs, non-Thai fashion, and so on.

Their comments, though anonymous, weren’t one of those childish rants that the majority of web posters have become infamous for; instead they are thoughtful, fierce and backed with evidence and public pronouncements of the aforementioned ministry’s official. And here’s the kick: my source posted those comments AFTER the ministry, in the same web forum, publicly INVITED Internet users to comment on the performance of the ministry.

Then there’s a twist. It turned out that another web poster who was threatened with a lawsuit actually works for the ministry, in the cultural surveillance department lorded over by Ladda herself, and he was the one who initiated the discussion on the performace of the ministry with the aim of gathering ideas from the public to present to his superior. The guy’s name is Sampan Ruksa, and this week he was apparently forced to post, on the same web forum and signed with his real name, his public apology to the ministry and to his supervisor, after allegedly being threatened with police presence.

Isn’t this the feudal mindset at its most arrogant? Aren’t those men and women working at the ministry, every ministry, “civil servants”? Servants. No wonder a number of people have quickly clicked to “Become a Fan” of the new Facebook forum. And it’d be phenomenally stupid of the watchdogs to assume that only idle teenagers are Facebook users, and thus their views are dispensible. The more the conservative wing of the ministry — which is the dominant wing — continues to display their pathetic inability to understand what’s going on outside their self-constructed cocoon of “morality” and “values”, the more they’re feeding the bonfire of frustration and radicalism. The more rabidly they want to censor, the more they’ll drive people to hatch underground vendetta — and the power of technology will be on their side.

Poor ministry. They still don’t get it that the most important culture is the culture of constructive criticism and free expression.

Don’t come after me, I’m in Dubai.

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