Conservative Buddhists urge Cultural Ministry to review controversial Thai film

Conservative Buddhist organisations in Thailand calls on the authorities to review a horror movie about a young novice, saying that the film insults Buddhism and Buddhist monks.

On Wednesday morning, 23 September 2015, five Buddhist organisations, namely Buddhist Scholars Association, Buddhism Protection Center of Thailand, Buddhist Women's Association, Network to Protect the Nation, Religion, and Monarchy, including, Buddhists Network, issued a joint statement to the Ministry of Culture against Thai horror film titled ‘A-bhat’ (‘offense’ in Pali language, a language of Buddhist study).

The statement which was submitted to Veera Rojpojanarat, the Culture Minister, urging the minister to review the content of the film. It was also sent to the film producers to rethink whether the film is appropriate to be shown in the country.

The film produced by Sahamongkol Film International and Baramyou Company is about the a delinquent teenager who was forced by his parents to ordained as Buddhist monk, but continues with his usual lifestyle as a layman while developing a sexual relationship with a young female protagonist, which later leads him to uncover the dark secrets in his monastery.

The film is scheduled to be in cinemas on 15 October 2015.  

One of the controversial scenes in the film which shows the leading protagonist in a Buddhist monk robe touching a woman, an action which is prohibited in the Buddhist monks’ code of conducts

In the statement, the five religious organisations, wrote that the content of the movie shows disrespect towards Buddhism and Buddhist monks in the country and is ‘valueless’.

Sathien Wipromma, the head of the Buddhist Scholars Association, told Matichon News that the movie might harbor ill intentions to ‘destroy’ Buddhist and is likely to cause conflicts in Thai society.  

The five organisations also voiced that the Thai actor who plays the main protagonist in the film is not even Buddhist.

Surapot Taweesak, a Buddhist and philosophy scholar, however, shared his thoughts on the matter through Matichon News that there is nothing wrong with the film.

“If you think that this kind of film is inappropriate then you should erase a lot of contents of Vinaya Pitaka (the ancient Buddhist text on the code of conducts of monks) because it even discusses about sexual intercourses between monks and female monkey and corpses,” said Surapot.

He mentioned that it is no secret that some Buddhist monks engaged in sexual intercourses as people have already seen in the media and that people are intelligent enough to separate between the actions of some monks and Buddhist principles.

“It’s already the 21th century. You can’t conceal the truth while only advertising about a single good dimension and prevent the society to talk about things from other angles any longer,” said a Buddhist academic.

He added that the call to ban the film shows ‘the lack of tolerance’ and disrespect towards freedom of expressions which ironically goes against the principles of freedom of thoughts in Buddhism itself.