Studio to Recut Movie Banned for 'Defaming Buddhism'

Actors Charlie Trairat and Ploy Sornarin in a scene from 'Arbat.' Photo: Sahamongkol Film International

BANGKOK — Sahamongkol Film International announced today it will re-edit a horror film banned by state censors yesterday for a number of scenes portraying a novice monk behaving inappropriately.

Two days before the film was to open nationwide, the studio said today it would re-submit an edited version of “Arbat” (Sin of a Monk) to the Film Censorship Board after it voted 4-to-2 to block the release of the film, stating the substance of the film would defame Buddhism by showing its lead character breaking his vows.

“If the film was screened, audiences would separate into two groups: those who would gain wisdom, and another group who would loathe the monks,” said Khajornsak Bhudhanubharb, chief of the Film Censorship Board. “Making a movie about religion can sometimes lead to social chaos, as we have seen from many countries.”

Horror Film May 'Destroy' Buddhism, Activists Warn

The board determined the film warranted banning under the 2010 Film Act for scenes including a novice drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, getting high on weed, having sexually explicit conversations, being violent and disrespecting Buddha images. 

Ar-Bat, which means an ecclesiastical violation of the rules for monks and novices, is about a boy forced to become a novice by his father due to his bad behavior. The unwilling novice also becomes romantically involved with a local girl. According to the trailer, he is then haunted by his malevolent spirits for his misbehavior.

Sahamongkol wrote on Facebook that it would recut the film but will maintain its core substance and the intentions of director Kanittha Kwunyoo and its producers.

"Personally, I sympathize with the producers of this film, because they invested a lot of money in it, but if this film is screened – especially in other countries, which have no understanding of Buddhist principles – it may create the wrong understanding of Buddhism," Minister of Culture Vira Rojpojchanarat said today. "Even other religions defend their faiths; we have to defend our own, too."

Buddhist hardliners first urged the Ministry of Culture to ban the film last month. The Supreme Sangha Council, Thailand’s appointed defenders of the faith, made no statement about the film.

Religion and the monkhood are deeply revered in Thailand, but recent years have seen frequent, headline-grabbing scandals of monks in trouble for gambling, prostitution, drug use and abuse of position to amass material wealth.

There was considerable dismay expressed online today at the decision to ban the film. Many comments online expressed anger, saying banning was not necessary as Thailand already has a rating system to label movies.

“In a world where information is free, everything is available by internet streaming and downloading,” well-known film critic Kong Rithdee wrote online. “Everyone has their own screen and own thoughts, so banning is the most primitive reaction of someone who does not realize that the world can only go one way, a way better forward.”


Even a celebrity internet expat, famous for his ability to slink Thai profanity, weighed in.

“I am depressed after I learned that some people have the power to decide which movies I can't watch, even if I am almost 80 years old,” wrote online humorist Nelson S. Howe.

All films are subject to scrutiny by the Ministry of Culture’s censor board before they are released domestically. The board has a record of censoring films on the grounds of religious sensitivity and national security.

In 2006, the board ordered award-winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul to cut scenes showing a monk playing guitar in his film “Syndromes and a Century.”

Apichatpong refused and withdrew it from domestic release.


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Horror Film May 'Destroy' Buddhism, Activists Warn