08 November 2023

(‘monks playing guitars’)

Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism has filed a criminal complaint against a Facebook group, accusing it of bringing the monkhood into disrepute. Yesterday, the organisation asked police to investigate nine pictures posted by Tae Toku to the AI Creatives Thailand group. Uploaded around two weeks ago and generated by artificial intelligence, they show monks as rock stars playing guitars. (AI illustrations of monks racing motorbikes were also widely shared online at the end of October.)

Charges could conceivably be brought under the Computer Crime Act, which forbids publishing “spurious” online content “that is likely to cause damage to any other person... or stir up public agitation”. The images are almost photorealistic, thus they could potentially be seen as spurious and damaging, though they depict generic monks rather than recognisable individuals. In their original context—posted to an AI artists’ group—they were clearly not intended to be taken seriously, and they have since been deleted.

Syndromes and a Century Monk and Motorcycle Taxi Rider

Monks playing guitars also caused controversy back in 2007, when Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s film Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was banned for showing a monk strumming a guitar (among other equally innocuous acts). Two short films—Watthana Rujirojsakul’s Ye... Dhamma... (เย... ธมฺมา...) and Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s Monk and Motorcycle Taxi Rider—also feature guitar-playing monks, in solidarity with Apichatpong and in protest against the censorship of Syndromes and a Century.

Thai Cinema Uncensored argues that depictions of the monkhood are regulated so stringently because monks are regarded as khon dee (‘good people’), untouchable pillars of the Thai social hierarchy. In relation to Syndromes and a Century, the book concludes that, in the eyes of the censors, “where the representation of khon dee is concerned, anything less than ideal is unacceptable. The degree of transgression is not the point; the perfect façade must be maintained.”

1 comment(s):

Matthew Hunt said...

AI Creatives Thailand: https://facebook.com/groups/797432901271530/posts/1069937067354444/

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