Thai tourism video stirs cultural heritage debate


Thai tourism video stirs cultural heritage debate

A still from the vide showing the characters on the beach, with one on a horseImage copyright
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Larking around on a Thai beach is fine for tourists, but apparently not for characters from literary epics

A music video promoting Thailand’s tourism industry has been edited after the government complained about its playful use of characters from classical literature.

The video was released earlier this month and shows four people in traditional Khon masks dancing their way around the country’s tourist sights. As well as visiting temples and snapping selfies on the beach, they’re shown doing a host of other activities including go-karting and whizzing down a zip wire. Among the characters depicted is Thotsakan, a king of giants in Thailand’s national epic Ramakien, The Nation explains.

The original version has racked up more than a million views on YouTube so far, but last week the culture ministry said the way it used Thotsakan was “inappropriate”, and that some scenes must be cut. “Thotsakan is the king of giants. He is a grand, formidable character. So, he is not supposed to engage in things like sweetmeat cooking,” permanent secretary Apinan Poshyananda was quoted as saying.

The video’s director, Bandit Thongdee, said he just wanted to put a modern spin on traditional Thai culture, but agreed to re-edit it in order to meet the ministry’s requirements. The new video was released on Monday.

The Nation compared the two versions and highlighted “seven things that Thotsakan can’t do” – in the culture ministry’s opinion. Cycling and horse riding are off-limits, and there’s no race track fun for Thotsakan in the new video. Images of him cooking, riding on a speedboat and enjoying coconut juice in a deckchair with his pals have been cut, too, as has that most modern of pastimes – taking selfies.

The video prompted a debate over how traditional characters should be portrayed in modern day Thailand. A Change.org petition in support of the original video gathered more than 70,000 signatures in less than a week, although the newspaper reported that some on social media felt the ministry was simply protecting the country’s heritage.

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Thotsakan doesn’t get on his bike in the new version of the video

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