“We're sick of Ministry of Culture in Thailand”
This Facebook fan page was created by netizens who are criticizing the methods and policies of Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. The Ministry has been strict in its promotion and monitoring of authentic Thai culture in old and new media sites. As of this writing, the page has 2,857 fans.
The Facebook page was also a response to the exaggerated reaction of ministry officials to the discussion thread started by one of its staff workers on popular web portal Pantip. The intention of the staff was to solicit feedback from the people about the performance of the ministry. The web forum generated an interesting discussion, including constructive criticism about the work of the ministry. But ministry officials didn’t like the negative comments. It forced its own employee to reveal his identity and to issue a public apology.
Sampan Ruksa, the staff of the ministry who initiated the online thread, wrote an apology letter for his actions. He began by pointing out that he didn’t mean to cause disrespect to the ministry by starting a web discussion on Pantip since it is a popular and credible website
Pantip is a top tier, high quality Thai web board. The respondents on the web board are members of the site who must submit their national ID card number or show their IP address. Discussion on this web board is more polite than on other web boards.
Sampan apologized to his superiors and colleagues in the ministry
I, Mr. Samphan Ruksa, started discussion threads at the beginning of last month on the web boards of Pantip.com, Larn Dham Sewana, and MThai. I contacted the Larn Dham Sewana administrator at the beginning of last month to request the thread be deleted.
I believe that my actions have had no benefit to the Cultural Monitoring Office, and worse, have caused discouragement and unease to the staff members who work therein. I hereby accept that my actions were due to my ignorance, inexperience, foolishness, and an incomplete understanding of their work process. In addition, I acted without consulting my superiors, acted beyond my duties, without judgment, and inappropriately, by allowing the outside public to criticize the Office's work too intrusively, to the point of criticizing specific individuals.
Thus, I, as the one who caused the damage, hereby take responsibility, admitting that my actions were unwitting. I apologize to each staff member of the Cultural Monitoring Office. I realize that the policies and the work of each staff member benefit our society and nation. They are determined and diligent, enduring difficulties and fatigue, and are very dedicated to their work. I am sorely grieved.
Kong Rithdee, in his Bangkok Post blog, lambasted the reactions of the ministry officials
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.
Commenting on the Facebook page, Natnaree Uriyapongson gives this advice
The Ministry of Culture should do something about the many prostitutes swarming our country instead of turning a blind eye and using it to “help and promote” our economy!!
In Thailand, citizens can call a hotline to complain about images, shows, and events which do not represent Thai culture. Thai Film Journal reports:
Call 1765. In Thailand that's the number to dial if you see or hear anything that might be deemed inappropriate — beauty queens in non-Thai costume, nipple slips, offensive love songs or a film — anything you think hinders social development, the Nation and “fine Thai culture”.
Thailand’s “culture police force” is composed of 1.3 million volunteers from 4,825 networks across the country who monitor TV shows, websites, and media events that offend and harm Thai culture.