Thai audiences in the dark about ‘Children of the Dark’

Yami no kodomotachi (Children of the Dark) movie poster

Yami no kodomotachi (Children of the Dark) movie poster

Human trafficking – peddling and trading of human beings for slavery, sexual exploitation and servitude – has grown to alarming proportions in recent years. It’s among the top five illicit trades in the world, whose net annual worth is believed to be between 9 billion and 42 billion US dollars. The truth is, nobody knows exactly how big it is, but human rights activists and development agencies agree the problem is pervasive.

Of the estimated 2.5 million persons trafficked worldwide, more than half are in the Asia Pacific. At the UN General Assembly for Children in August 2007, it was reported that about 1.8 million children became victims of commercial sex trade in 2000. About one million children in Southeast Asia are said to be involved – Thailand is one centre of this shady trade, drawing on misery in its rural hinterlands as well as poorer neighbouring countries like Burma, Cambodia and Laos.

So what happens when someone goes to the trouble of studying the issue in depth, and then pools talent and resources to make a feature film that exposes international connections that sustain the child sex industry in Thailand? Instead of being welcomed as part of the effort to counter this scourge, the film gets banned.

Yami no kodomotachi (Children of the Dark, 138 mins, original Japanese) is a Japanese-Thai film made in 2008 about child sex slavery. It has been banned in Thailand on the grounds that it was ‘inappropriate’ and touched on a ‘sensitive’ issue.

Watch the official trailer of the film (Japanese soundtrack, Thai captions):

I haven’t seen the film, but according to one reviewer who did, Junji Sakamoto‘s film is based on a novel by Yan Sogil and scripted by Sakamoto himself, shows, with a documentary-like directness, how children caught in the web of a Thai prostitution ring are exploited, abused and, in some cases, murdered when they are no longer sexually salable.

Mark Schilling, writing in The Japan Times in August 2008, noted: “…In being so visually graphic — particularly in the sex scenes in the Thai brothel — Sakamoto treads a dangerous line between hard-hitting social drama and stomach-turning exploitation. He takes care never to show his young actors (whose average age looks to be about 10) and their adult ‘clients’ in the same explicit shot, but he films them engaged in sexual acts or their aftermath. Sakamoto may defend these scenes in the name of realism, but could he have filmed similar ones in Japan, using Japanese children? The short answer is “no.”

The Thai ban prevented ‘Children of the Dark’ from being screened at the Bangkok International Film Festival, held in the Thai capital from 23 – 30 September 2008.

“The ban puts under the spotlight the country’s – or at least its higher-ups’ – seeming unwillingness to let go of the Film Act of 1930, when Thailand was still under absolute monarchy. That law gave a Board of Censors the power to impose cuts or to ban a film it deems inappropriate,” writes my friend and colleague Lynette Lee Corporal in an article just published on Asia Media Forum.

Thailand in denial about its Children of the Dark

Thailand in denial about its Children of the Dark

She quotes my Thai colleague and documentary filmmaker Pipope Panitchpakdi as saying: “Authorities always think that viewers need to be protected and shielded from real issues. They still have that kind of sentiment that the media should function as a gatekeeper. That is, let the good stories in and the bad ones out. It’s okay in certain circumstances but not when talking about real, serious issues.”

Pipope adds: “This country has no problem with hypocrisy; we don’t see anything wrong with double standards. We have sex workers in corners of the city, but we can’t watch people kissing.”

A Bangkok-based journalist who calls himself Wise Kwai, writing in his blog, asks: “When will they (Thai authorities) learn that when they ban or censor a film, the ensuing stink that’s raised causes more problems than if the film had been allowed to quietly unspool? Perhaps if people had seen it, they might criticise it, but they’d also talk about the problems in society that allow children to be exploited.”

Read the full article: Film Censorship Leaves Viewers in the Dark by Lynette Lee Corporal

My Sep 2007 post: MTV Exit: Entertainment TV takes on human trafficking

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‘War for the Whitehouse’: Obama, McCain and The Onion

Onion News Network - for news you can't afford to miss

Onion News Network - for news you can't afford to miss

The American presidential election race is entering its last lap. And the world watches the campaign trail with baited breath.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama enjoys more international support than his Republican rival John McCain, as most people outside the US prefer the Democrat leader to become next US president, according to a BBC poll in September 2008. Most of the people questioned in the global poll conducted by international polling institute GlobeScan believe that US relations with the rest of the world would improve under the presidentship of Obama.

While so much of American and international news media time is being spent on covering the campaign and various opinion polls, some comic relief comes from The Onion – that wickedly funny and innovative website which now produces a steady stream of videos spoofing the news media’s worse excesses.

The Onion calls it the ‘War for the White House’ and has set up its ‘election analysis bunker’ from where its intrepid reporters are bringing us news that you – and major news organisations – have somehow managed to miss. They call is Onion News Network, ONN for short.

They’ve been doing it for the better part of a year, and here are some of my favourites from The Onion YouTube channel:

Caution: There’s a slight bias towards Senator Obama in some of these news reports, but then, he’s been the liberal media’s darling for much of this campaign year.

October 2008: McCain Left On Campaign Bus Overnight
Campaign officials downplayed the incident, saying the senator was fine as soon as he was fed and taken to the bathroom.

October 2008: Gifted Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad
In this installment of Beyond The Facts, a precocious 8-year-old girl participates in grown-up politics by spreading smears and lies.

September 2008: McCains Economic Plan: ‘Everyone Marry A Beer Heiress’
McCain pointed to his personal success in marrying a wealthy beer heiress to prove how the plan could benefit every American.

September 2008: Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad On McCain
In response to Republican attacks, Barack Obama unleashed a series of slightly negative ads that gently point out how McCain could be doing a better job.

August 2008: Portrayal Of Obama As Snob Hailed As Step Forward For Blacks
Overjoyed civil rights leaders say that Barack Obama has paved the way for future black politicians to be smeared as country club snobs.

March 2008: Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters
For a majority of likely voters, meaningless bullshit will be the most important factor in deciding who they will vote for in 2008.

January 2008: The Onion: More Candidates Court Fat Vote
Presidential candidates are reaching out to fat voters on the campaign trail by eating large amounts of fattening food.

See all election videos of ONN

ONN’s self-introduction says its “style of hard-hitting, on-the-ground coverage of live news events has become a standard in the news industry. The network can be viewed in 92.2 million U.S. households and more than 500,000 American prison cells, making it the most-watched cable network in the world. It can currently be seen in 312 countries, with broadcasts in 52 different languages“.

Wow!

The Onion - The Nation's finest news source...

The Onion - The Nation's finest news source...